Athletes Look To Top Of Podium At NCAA Indoor Nationals
Saint Martin's senior Mikel Smith has the top mark in the men's high jump by 1.5 inches and is looking to avenge last year's runner-up finish. Photo by Loren Orr.
Saint Martin's senior Mikel Smith has the top mark in the men's high jump by 1.5 inches and is looking to avenge last year's runner-up finish. Photo by Loren Orr.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The question for the GNAC at the 2017 NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships will not be how if the conference will place athletes on the podium, but rather how many national champions will the GNAC yield.

With two national leading performances and 17 athletes with marks in the top-10 this season, the prospects are good for a number of All-American performances once all is said and done at the meet at the Birmingham CrossPlex, which begins Thursday.

The list begins with Saint Martin’s senior Mikel Smith, who enters as the Division II leader in the men’s high jump. The defending national outdoor champion in the event outdoors and the runner-up indoors last year, Smith extended his own conference record indoor at last month’s GNAC Indoor Championships by an inch and a half, clearing 7 feet, 3 inches. That is 1.5 inches better than the next two competitors.

Western Oregon’s men’s distance medley relay also hopes that its Division II best mark in the distance medley relay will hold. The Wolves ran a GNAC record 9:45.45 at January’s UW Invitational and they have held the top spot ever since.

Along with the DMR mark, the Wolves will look to see if junior David Ribich will flirt with the four-minute mile. Ribich automatically qualified for the national meet in January with a time of 4:02.30 at the UW Invitational before claiming the GNAC titles in the mile and the 3,000 meters. He will run amidst a group of five athletes who have run under 4:03 this season.

Alaska Anchorage enters a school-record tying 14 athletes into the meet, led by GNAC Championships Women’s Athlete of the Meet Jamie Ashcroft. The champion in both the women’s 60 meters and 200 meters will compete in both events as well as run on the Seawolves’ 4x400-meter relay. Ashcroft has the fourth fastest time in Division II in the 200 meters, a GNAC record 24.41 seconds.

Seawolves’ senior Dominik Notz will compete in both the men’s 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters and enters the meet with the sixth fastest time nationally in the 5,000 at 14:03.95. Senior Travis Turner has the sixth best point total this season in the men’s heptathlon at 5,211 points while junior Caroline Kurgat has the country’s seventh fastest time in the women’s 3,000 meters in 9:31.08. Alaska Anchorage also enters with the 10th best time in Division in both the men’s 4x400-meter relay (3:13.75) and the women’s distance medley relay (11:39.24).

Simon Fraser qualified nine athletes for the NCAA meet, all but one of which is on the women’s side. Senior Chantel Desch leads the women’s qualifiers, entering with ninth best mark in the women’s 400 meters at 55.37 seconds. The Clan has three representatives in the women’s mile in juniors Miryam Bassett, Julia Howley and Paige Nock and a pair of qualifiers in the 200 meters in freshman Katherine Lucas and sophomore Valda Kabia.

The Clan’s lone men’s qualifier, senior Vladislav Tsygankov, is one of three GNAC athletes qualified to compete in two individual events. The GNAC Championships Male Athlete of the Meet won both the 400 meters and the long jump. He is tied for 13th entering competition in the long jump, where he earned indoor All-American honors last year.

Saint Martin’s senior Shannon Porter is the GNAC’s other two-event qualifier and will look to end her collegiate career as an All-American. Porter automatically qualified for nationals in the 5,000 meters and her time of 16:29.89 is fourth best in Division II. In the 3,000 meters, Porter’s time of 9:30.70 is sixth.

Western Oregon sophomore Olivia Woods leads four GNAC qualifiers in women’s 800 meters, qualifying in the final meet of the regular season with a school record time of 2:10.14.

Northwest Nazarene's Payton Lewis should be in the mix for the men's pole vault national title. The junior won his second consecutive GNAC championship in the event and enters the meet tied for third in Division II with an NNU school record mark of 17 feet, 4.5 inches.

Central Washington features a pair of top-10 qualifiers in junior Kodiak Landis and sophomore Mariyah Vongsaveng. Landis, the GNAC champion in the men’s heptathlon, enters with the fifth best point total in the event at 5,269. Vongsaveng set the GNAC record in the women’s 60-meter hurdles in the conference meet preliminaries with a time of 8.51 seconds, tying her for sixth in Division II.

In the team competition, Alaska Anchorage earned top honors for the GNAC in 2016. The Seawolves’ women placed ninth with 20.5 points while the women were 14th with 16 points.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS (GNAC Participants In Italics)
All Times Central
Thurs., Mar. 9
11 a.m.: Men’s Heptathlon (Landis, Turner)
3:45 p.m.: Women’s 60 Meters Preliminaries (Ashcroft)
4:30 p.m.: Women’s Mile Preliminaries (Bassett, Howley, Nock, Perez)
4:45 p.m.: Men’s Mile Preliminaries (Ribich, Nading)
5 p.m.: Women’s 400 Meters Preliminaries (Desch)
5:05 p.m.: Men’s Long Jump (Tsygankov, Gladden)
5:20 p.m.: Men’s 400 Meters Preliminaries (Tsygankov)
5:35 p.m.: Women’s 800 Meters Preliminaries (Woods, Townsend, Van de Grift, McCormick)
5:50 p.m.: Men’s 800 Meters Preliminaries (Dempsey)
6:05 p.m.: Women’s 5,000 Meters (Porter)
6:30 p.m.: Men’s 5,000 Meters (Notz)

Fri., Mar. 10
11:20 a.m.: Men’s Heptathlon 60-Meter Hurdles (Landis, Turner)
11:55 a.m.:  Men’s Triple Jump (Plummer)
Noon: Men’s Heptathlon Pole Vault
2 p.m.: Men’s High Jump (Smith, Hoberg)
3:30 p.m.: Women’s Pole Vault (Paradee, Emmert)
4:15 p.m.: Women’s 60 Meter Hurdles Preliminaries (Vongsaveng)
5 p.m.: Women’s 200 Meters Preliminaries (Ashcroft, Lucas, Kabia)
5:55 p.m.: Women’s DMR (Alaska Anchorage, Simon Fraser, Seattle Pacific)
6:15 p.m.: Men’s DMR (Western Oregon)

Sat., Mar. 11
2:15 p.m.: Women’s 60 Meter Hurdles
2:30 p.m.: Men’s Pole Vault (Lewis)
2:35 p.m.: Women’s Triple Jump (Brown)
2:45 p.m.: Women’s 60 Meters
3:15 p.m.: Women’s Mile
3:25 p.m.: Men’s Mile
3:35 p.m.: Women’s 400 Meters
3:45 p.m.: Men’s 400 Meters
4 p.m.: Women’s 800 Meters
4:10 p.m.: Men’s 800 Meters
4:20 p.m.: Women’s 200 Meters
4:40 p.m.: Women’s 3,000 Meters
5 p.m.: Men’s 3,000 Meters
5:15 p.m.: Women’s 4x400 Meter Relay (Alaska Anchorage)
5:35 p.m.: Men’s 4x400 Meter Relay (Alaska Anchorage)