Feb. 24, 2014
PORTLAND, Ore. - Defending their titles as Great Northwest Athletic Conference Indoor Track and Field Champions, the Alaska Anchorage women and Western Washington men took home the top prize at last week's GNAC Championships at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa.
The UAA women were paced by female Athlete of the Meet Karolin Anders, while WWU's Alex Donigian took home the male Athlete of the Meet award. The teams have been crowned co-GNAC Team of the Week for their accomplishments.
On the women's side, UAA displayed all-around excellence, boasting winners in sprints, distance races, as well as in the multi events. Among the top performers in terms of distance was Joyce Kipchumba, who took home both the 3K and 5K titles. "Joyce has undergone huge improvement, and those are tough events, but we knew she was more than capable in both," UAA head coach Michael Friess commented on the junior's performance. "She ran a little bit more conservatively early on and really challenged towards the end in both of those races."
Jamie Ashcroft, a true freshman, helped the Seawolves rack up points by winning the 60-meter dash and setting a new GNAC record of 24.69 in the 200-meter race. "Jamie is running so strong and is making an impact on the national list," Friess said regarding Ashcroft's NCAA standing at No. 14 in the 200 and No. 18 in the 60. "We are looking forward to the next few months and watching her help pull the sprint crew further forward."
While Kipchumba and Ashcroft provided valuable points with their strong finishes, Anders excelled in a variety of areas as she captured the women's pentathlon title with a meet-record 3,640 points, and the triple jump crown as well. "Karolin had a tough battle in the multis that came down to the 800, but she just got stronger as the meet went on and we knew she was capable of being very good in each of those events," Friess said. "We focused on getting team points, and knew that we have some athletes who are capable of doing multiple events."
Another key component to UAA's success was a victory by its distance medley relay team, which consisted of Ivy O'Guinn, Susan Bick, Jessica Pahkala, and Haleigh Lloyd. "That was an All-American team returning from last year, and we knew they had the potential to perform well," Friess said on the team's NCAA sixth-best mark of 11:45.08. "Hayley Bezanson, who just came to us in January, performed well too, and it was great to see her make the final in the 400 as there was not a lot of time to work with her."
For the WWU men, balanced performances in races and field events helped the Vikings to their second-straight GNAC Indoor title. Taking the lead was Donigian, who set a GNAC record in the 60-meter dash at 6.75, and posted a meet record in the 200-meter race at 21.79. "Donigian was in the slow heat of the 200, and to come back and win, we were really happy with that," WWU head coach Pee Wee Halsell said. "In the 60, it was a major thing for him to run that fast, and we know he moved his times up in both races, which was great."
In the high jump, Logan Myers contributed with a mark of 6-8 3/4, moving him to No. 26 in the NCAA, and Peter Maguire took home the 60-meter hurdles title with a time of 8.24. "I was very happy for Peter, and that's exactly what he needed to boost his confidence after being injured during outdoors last season," Halsell commented on the sophomore's outstanding run. "Logan performed well too, and it was really fun to see those guys step up."
In the shot put, it was Jacob Gilbert overcoming GNAC favorite and teammate Frank Catelli, as the former picked up the title with a toss of 52-10 3/4. "We were a little surprised with that one, but Gilbert came in and did a great job for us," said Halsell.
Before the GNAC outdoor season kicks off next week, many of the UAA and WWU runners will first shift their minds to the NCAA indoor meet, scheduled for March 14-15 in Winston-Salem, N.C. "The national meet is a tough one, but we are well-positioned and would love to be a top-10 team," Friess said regarding his women's potential on the grand stage. "Joyce and Karolin are both pretty high up, and our DMR team can score as well."
In terms of preparation for the national indoor meet, as well as the upcoming outdoor season, both Halsell and Friess agree that the GNAC serves as prime conditioning to keep their runners in top form. "It's good competition, and it shows a lot for the GNAC and what the Vikings have to do to be competitive," Halsell said regarding WWU preparing for the NCAA meet.
"The health of the conference is really gratifying, because if you can be competitive in the GNAC chances are you're going to be competitive at a national level as well," Friess said. "This is a process of making us better as the season progresses, and running against highly competitive athletes is motivating and inspiring for this squad."
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