Tight Races Expected in GNAC Indoor Championships
Alex Donigian (right) is the two-champion in the 60 and 200.  Among his challengers this weekend will be Rimar Christie (middle) of Northwest Nazarene.
Alex Donigian (right) is the two-champion in the 60 and 200. Among his challengers this weekend will be Rimar Christie (middle) of Northwest Nazarene.
Tasia Baldwin of Seattle Pacific is the No. 3 seed in the 60 meters.
Tasia Baldwin of Seattle Pacific is the No. 3 seed in the 60 meters.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

NAMPA, Idaho – Alaska Anchorage and Seattle Pacific are the only schools to win the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championship.  The Seawolves and Falcons, along with Simon Fraser, figure to vie for the title in the 12th annual event at Jacksons Indoor Track this weekend.

In the latest USTFCCCA regional computer rankings, the Seawolves, who are the two-time defending women’s champions, are the highest ranked GNAC team and are third overall.

Seattle Pacific, which won nine consecutive women’s team titles between 2004 and 2012, is ranked fourth just ahead of fifth-ranked Simon Fraser in the regional poll.

The race should be a tossup as the projected women’s team scores based on declared athletes has SPU finishing 24 points ahead of Alaska Anchorage with Simon Fraser a close third five points back of the Seawolves. 

Central Washington could also be a factor in the race.  Its projected team score is just 25 fewer than Simon Fraser.

On the men’s side, Western Washington overtook season-long leader Simon Fraser in the regional rankings this week, earning it the favorites role for this weekend’s meet.

The Vikings, who are ranked second in the region computer rankings, will be seeking their third consecutive GNAC men’s championship and its fifth overall.

A three-peat, however, won’t be easy,  Only 28 points separate Western Washington, Simon Fraser and Alaska Anchorage in the projected team scores.  Both SFU and UAA will be going for their first-ever conference indoor titles.   

The two-day meet begins Friday  with the men’s heptathlon beginning at 9 a.m. and the women’s pentathlon starting at 9:15 a.m.

Preliminaries in the running events get underway at 2:30 p.m.    Ten finals are on Friday’s schedule including the women’s weight throw, high jump, long jump, 5000 and distance medley relay and the men’s long jump, pole vault, shot put, 5K and DMR.

The meet continues Saturday beginning with the final three events of the men’s heptathlon at 8:45 a.m.    Saturday’s field events start at 10 a.m. with the running  events scheduled to start following the opening ceremony at 11 a.m.

W0MEN: SFU's Butterworth Goes For 3rd Victory in Mile

Simon Fraser’s Lindsey Butterworth will be seeking her third conference mile title after  winning the event in 2012 and 2013 before redshirting last year.  She will also run the 800.

She has the best times in Division II in both events including  a 4:44.80 in mile and a 2:06.56 in the 800. Both marks rank second in GNAC history bettered only by Seattle Pacific’s Jessica Pixler.

Butterworth is one of eight  former champions in the women’s field which also includes Alaska Anchorage’s Karolin Anders, who won both the pentathlon (3,640) and triple jump (36-10 ½)  in winning the 2014 GNAC Outstanding Performer award.

The Seawolves’ Jamie Ashcroft was also a two-event champion a year ago sweeping the 60 meters and 200 meter titles in times of 7.69 and 24.69.

UAA’s Rosie Smith was the 200 champion in 2013 when she was clocked in a time of 25.20.  She will also run the 60, 60 hurdles and also high jump this weekend.

Northwest Nazarene returns two defending champions – weight thrower Caitlin Curtis (50-10) and pole vaulter Alison Silva who set a conference record with a vault of 12-10 in the 2014 meet.

Central Washington also has two past champions.  Tayler Fettig won the high jump last year tying the GNAC record with a jump of 5-9 ¾.  Becki Duhamel won the 2013 shot championship with a put of 43-5 ¼.  She comes into the meet with the best marks in both the shot and weight throw.

Seattle Pacific will look to use its depth – it has two of the top three marks in the 60, 400 and long jump and three of the top four in the 200 – to challenge for its 10th team title.

Among its athletes are provisional national qualifiers Lynelle Decker in the 800, Anna Patti in the 5,000 and Becca Houk in the 60.  Houk is one of three top seeds for SPU.  Jahzelle Ambus has the best qualifying time in the 400 meters and Patti has the best 5,000 time.  Houk’s 60 time of 7.67 ranks second in GNAC history.

In addition to Butterworth and Houk, three other GNAC athletes also have the second best marks in GNAC history – SFU’s Jennifer Johnson in the 3,000 (9:28.24),  Chelsey Knott of Northwest Nazarene in the 60 hurdles (8.72) and Duhamel in both the shot put (45-11 ½) and weight throw (57-8 ½).

Western Washington distance runner Katelyn Steen is the lone female to have provisional national qualifying marks in three events as she has met the standard in the mile, 3000 and 5000.  She’ll skip the mile and 5K to concentrate on the 3K this weekend.  Her best time in that event of 9:47.97 ranks seventh in GNAC history.

MEN: With 5 Top Seeds, Vikings Seek 5th Team Crown

Western Washington has won back-to-back GNAC titles and four overall in the 11-year history of the indoor championships.

With the top-ranked athlete in five events and the defending champion in four, the Vikings will try to make it three in a row.

Simon Fraser and Alaska Anchorage are also contenders.

SFU has athletes who have posted nine national qualifying performances this winter. They also have the GNAC’s best times in both the 4x400 and distance medley relays, setting a GNAC record of 9:54.66 in the latter event.

Three Clan athletes have PNQs in two events each – Cameron Proceviat in the 800 and mile, Marc-Antoine Rouleau in the mile and 3000 and Oliver Jorgensen in the 3000 and 5000.  Proceviat and Rouleau, however, will both skip the mile this weekend, while Jorgensen will only run the 5K.

Defending champions for the Vikings include Alex Donigian in the 60 and 200, Brett Watson in the high jump and Kevin Yates in the long jump. Donigian and Yates will be seeking their third titles in their events.  Donigian holds the GNAC record in both of his events with best career times of 6.72 and 21.63.

Watson is the top seed this year in the long jump with the second best mark in GNAC history (23-7 ¼) and WWU’s Travis Milbrandt is the No. 1 seed in the hurdles with a GNAC-record time of 8.09. 

Alaska Anchorage, which has finished second the past two seasons, returns Cody Thomas who will be seeking his third consecutive heptathlon title.  He currently ranks third nationally with a best score of 5,338.

Thomas is UAA’s lone top seed.  However, four athletes including Thomas in two events are No. 2 seeds – Adam Commandeur in the 400 (49.28), Joe Day in the 800 (1:52.66), Dylan Anthony in the 5,000 (14:38.68) and Thomas in the 60 hurdles (8.27) and high jump (2.04).

Four other 2014 champions will be looking to repeat including Josh Hanna of Western Oregon who won the 800 in a time of 1:54.14.

Central Washington returns two champions – Luke Plummer in the triple jump (46-3 ¼) and Kevin Stanley in the weight throw (58-1 ¼).

MSUB’s Robert Peterson, who currently ranks seventh in Division II in the mile with a best of 4:07.50, is the defending champion in that event.  He’s also the top seed in the 3,000 and has the second best marks in GNAC history in both events including a time of 8:15.52 in the longer event.

Neither Northwest Nazarene or Saint Martin’s has a returning champion, but both teams have athletes that have reached historic heights this winter.

The Crusaders’ Payton Lewis vaulted 17-0 ¾ last Saturday becoming just the second vaulter in GNAC history to clear the bar at 17 feet.  He’s also a national qualifier in the heptathlon, but will skip that 7-event competition this weekend.  Rimar Christie is a national qualifier in the 60 hurdles with a best of 8.27.

Earlier this winter, Mikel Smith of Saint Martin’s became the first GNAC athlete to clear seven feet in the high jump going over at 7-0 ½.  SMU’s Matt DeHan has met the national standard in the pole vault (15-9) and Jaysen Yoro has a PNQ in the heptathlon (4872).