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Ribich, Kurgat Headline Outdoor Track Special Awards
Ribich (left) defended his national championship in the 1,500 meters while Kurgat claimed titles at both 5,000 and 10,000 meters. Photos by Joe Reinsch.
Ribich (left) defended his national championship in the 1,500 meters while Kurgat claimed titles at both 5,000 and 10,000 meters. Photos by Joe Reinsch.

Monday, June 4, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – Two of the top distance runners in the conference and arguably two of the best in NCAA Division II history, Western Oregon’s David Ribich and Alaska Anchorage’s Caroline Kurgat top the list of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s 2018 outdoor track and field special awards winners.

Ribich, the NCAA Division II all-time record-holder and two-time champion in the 1,5000 meters, was voted by conference coaches as the Men’s Athlete of the Year. Kurgat, who completed a dominant season with convincing national championship runs in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters, was the unanimous choice for Women’s Athlete of the Year.

For Ribich, the award completes a clean sweep of the conference’s top honors for cross country and track and field athletes. He was named the GNAC Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year after his win at the GNAC Championships in October and was voted by coaches as the Men’s Indoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year in March. Ribich was also selected as the Outdoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year in 2017.

The women’s award provides Kurgat with a matched set of plaques. She was also selected as the 2017 Women’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year following her win at the GNAC Championships en route to winning the Division II national title.

Central Washington athletes earn the other two men’s athlete awards. Distance runner Corbin Carlton was selected as the Newcomer of the Year and multi-event specialist Braydon Maier was named the Freshman of the Year. Concordia’s Jerret Mantalas was elected by his peers as the Men’s Coach of the Year.

Western Washington’s javelin thrower Raquel Pellecer was selected as the Women’s Newcomer of the Year while Seattle Pacific’s multi-event standout Renick Meyer was the unanimous selection for Freshman of the Year. Falcons’ head coach Karl Lerum was tabbed as the Women’s Coach of the Year.

Ribich closed out his collegiate career in record-setting fashion. He set the NCAA Division II all-time record in the 1,500 meters when he ran 3:37.35 at April’s Bryan Clay Invitational, snapping a mark that had stood for 30 years. At the time, the performance was No. 22 in the world this season. Ribich won both the 800 meters and 1,500 meters at the GNAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships and, with his win in the 1,500, became the first male athlete in GNAC history to win four consecutive titles in the same event. He closed the season by defending his national title in the 1,500, winning in a time of 3:45.54.

In addition to the conference honors, Ribich was named the USTFCCCA West Region Male Track Athlete of the Year and was selected to the Google Cloud/CoSIDA Academic All-District 8 Track and Field/Cross Country Team. He was named by coaches as the GNAC Championships Male Track Athlete of the Meet. In addition to his record in the 1,500 meters, Ribich’s time of 1:48.09 in the 800 meters is No. 2 on the GNAC All-Time List.

Kurgat finished as a double national champion as she won both the 5,000 meters (16:22.62) and 10,000 meters (34:13.80) at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. She won the 10,000 meters by a 36-second margin and the 5,000 by an 11-second margin. Her season-best time of 32:33.24 in the 10,000 meters was not only a GNAC record, but No. 2 all-time in Division II. Likewise, Kurgat’s best of 15:41.21 in the 5,000 meters is a GNAC record and No. 3 all-time in Division II. Kurgat won both events at the GNAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships, winning the 10,000 meters by a 56-second margin with a meet record time of 34:49.33. She also placed second in the 1,500 meters and was selected as the GNAC Championships Female Track Athlete of the Meet.

In addition to the Athlete of the Year, Kurgat was named by the USTFCCCA as it’s West Region Female Track Athlete of the Year. The 2017 NCAA Division II cross country national champion, Kurgat was named the USTFCCCA’s Division II Female Athlete and Scholar-Athlete of the Year back in November.

Maier, the Men’s Freshman of the Year, earned victories in both the decathlon and the pole vault at the GNAC Championships. His winning score of 6,751 points in the decathlon ranks him No. 5 on the GNAC All-Time List and was a provisional qualifying mark for the NCAA Championships, ranking 23rd in Division II. His pole vault mark of 15 feet, 6.25 inches ranked No. 2 in the GNAC. In addition to his two conference titles, Maier finished second in 110-meter hurdles with a time of 15.08 seconds that ranked third in the GNAC. Maier was also named the Freshman of the Year during the indoor season.

Carlton, the Men’s Newcomer of the Year, finished fourth in the steeplechase and seventh in the 5,000 meters at the GNAC Championships. He finished with the 28th best time in Division II in steeplechase with a time of 9:07.71 that was an NCAA Championships provisional qualifier.

Meyer was the unanimous selection for the Women’s Freshman of the Year award after she earned All-American honors in both the heptathlon and the long jump. She placed seventh in both events at the NCAA Championships, scoring 4,992 points in the heptathlon and going 19 feet, 4.75 inches in the long jump. Meyer won the GNAC heptathlon with a score of 5,114 points which ranks No. 5 on the conference all-time list. During that competition, Meyer set the GNAC record in the long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 5 inches.

Meyer also won conference titles in the 100 meters and long jump and was named the GNAC Championships Women’s Co-Field Athlete of the Meet. In addition, Meyer’s performance in the heptathlon was recognized as the Women’s Performance of the Meet.

Pellecer, the Women’s Newcomer of the Year, continued the line of great javelin throwers to compete for Western Washington. The sophomore earned All-American honors with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Pellecer finished second at the GNAC Championships with a season-best of 157 feet, 6 inches, that ranked No. 2 in the GNAC this season and No. 9 on the GNAC All-Time List. It also ranked No. 6 in Division II.

Mantalas earned the Men’s Coach of the Year this season after he led the Cavaliers’ men to their first GNAC outdoor championship with a score of 138 points. He coached athletes to five conference championships (Carlos Ortiz in the 100 and 200 meters, Josh Koch in the shot put, Jakob Chamberlin in the discus and Jacob Slate in the hammer) and sent four athletes to the NCAA Championships.

Lerum earned his 15th GNAC Women’s Coach of the Year in track and field and his eighth during the outdoor season. He led the Falcons to their ninth GNAC outdoor championship with 154.5 points, winning the title by 33.5 points. In addition to Meyer’s three titles, Lerum coached Grace Bley to a conference title in the 200 meters and saw the Falcons’ 4x100-meter relay team win with a meet record time of 46.60 seconds. Seattle Pacific sent four athletes to the NCAA Championships.

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