WWU men attempt to tie record for team titles at GNAC meet

Lindsay Wells

May 7, 2014


By Bob Guptill, GNAC Publicity Director

Western Washington University will try to match the conference record for most men's team championships and distance runner Micah Chelimo of Alaska Anchorage will have the opportunity to become the most prolific point scorer in GNAC Men's Track and Field Championship history in the 13th annual championship meet which gets underway Friday at McArthur Stadium on the campus of host Western Oregon University.

Chelimo currently ranks third on the men's all-time career point list with 69 points and needs 14 more to surpass UAA's David Registe (2007-08, 11).

Chelimo, who has the best times this spring in NCAA Division II in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, already has five career victories, one shy of the GNAC record.

He won the steeplechase in 2010, the steeple and 5,000 in 2011 and the 1,500 and 5,000 in 2012.

The Vikings, meanwhile, will be going after their third consecutive team championship and fifth overall. That would match Western Oregon's record for most men's team victories.

Alaska Anchorage is the defending women's team champion after it dethroned six-time champion Seattle Pacific last year.

Chelimo is one of 14 previous men's champions in the field including seven from last year. He is entered in the 1,500, steeplechase and 5,000. He won the steeple in 2010, the steeple and 5,000 in 2011 and the 1,500 and 5,000 in 2012 before redshirting a year ago.

Also among the returning champions is Rimar Christie of Northwest Nazarene who swept the 100 and 200 meters last year and also won the 100 two years ago.

Western Washington's Jonathon Poolman won the 400 a year ago, but goes into the meet as the seventh seed. UAA's Ethan Hewitt, the 2010 and 2012 winner, has the top time this spring of 48.00.

Brady Beagley of Western Oregon is back to defend his steeplechase title, while hurdle champions Logan Myers of WWU (110 hurdles) and Elliott Bauer of UAA (400 hurdles) also return.

Myers is one of three former 110 champions in the field along with WOU's Kody Rhodes (2012) and Brett Campbell (2011). None of the three, however, is the top seed. Bernari Sternen of Central Washington, who set a GNAC record earlier this season with a time of 14.47, holds that distinction.

Defending field event champions include Brett Watson of WWU in the high jump, Joseph Keeton of Saint Martin's in the pole vault and Franz Burghagen of Alaska Anchorage in the javelin. Burghagen ranks second in Division II this spring in the javelin with a season-best of 229-3.

Another former GNAC champion is Matson Hardie of Western Oregon, who won the triple jump title in 2010 and the long jump in 2012. Hardie has 45 career points in the GNAC meet and needs five more to become the 18th male athlete in GNAC history to reach 50. He is the second seed in the triple jump, the sixth seed on the long jump and the eighth seed in high jump.

On the women's side, Seattle Pacific's McKayla Fricker and WWU's Lindsay Wells will each be seeking their third consecutive victories in their specialties.

Fricker is the two-time defending 800 meter champion and comes into the meet ranked third in NCAA Division II with a season-best time 2:06.85. Wells will be seeking her third straight hammer title. She currently ranks 11th in Division 2 and second in GNAC history with a best of 182-4.

Also back to defend their crowns are Karolin Anders of Alaska Anchorage in the high jump, Cheyanna Pinley of Western Washington in the pole vault and Vessie Umu of Northwest Nazarene in the shot put.

Anders has already claimed one title this spring winning the GNAC Multi-Events last week. She comes into the meet as the second seed in back of Central Washington's Tayler Fettig who ranks fifth nationally with a season-best of 5-8 3/4.

Pinley comes in as the No. 2 seed in the pole vault in back of GNAC indoor champion Alison Silva of Northwest Nazarene who has a best of 12-2 1/2. The NNU freshman won the indoor title with a GNAC and meet-record vault of 12-10. Umu is the No. 3 seed in the shot in back of Emmi Collier of Western Oregon and Becki Duhamel of Central Washington.

Another previous champion is Seattle Pacific's Kishia Mitchell. She swept the 100 and 200-meter titles in 2011. This weekend she'll run in the 400 where she is the top seed and the 200 where she is the second seed behind UAA's Jamie Ashcroft. Ashcroft is also the top seed in the 100 where she holds the GNAC record with a best of 11.74.

In addition to Fricker in the 800 and Fettig in the high jump, eight other GNAC women have marks that rank in the Top 10 nationally.

Bethany Drake of Western Washington is the national leader in the javelin (169-6), but will not be competing because of a previous commitment. Her teammate Kate Reichert ranks third (162-8) and Seabre Church of Western Oregon is seventh (155-9).

Joyce Kipchumba of Alaska Anchorage ranks fifth in the 10,000 (34:54.04) and 10th in the 5,000 (16:44.97). Sarah Sawatzky of Simon Fraser ranks 10th (2:09.15) in the 800. In the 1500, UAA's Ivy O'Guinn ranks third (4:25.39).

Katelyn Steen of WWU ranks seventh in the steeplechase (10:44.03) and Karolin Anders of UAA is seventh in the heptathlon (5048).

On the men's side, Chelimo is one of four GNAC men ranked in the Top 10 nationally including WWU's Frank Catelli in the shot put (5th, 58-7 1/2) and discus (10th, 173-11), Alaska Anchorage's Franz Burghagen in the javelin (2nd, 229-3) and UAA's Cody Thomas in the decathlon (8th, 6940).

The team races based on seed marks appear to be very close on both sides.

Alaska Anchorage has the most top seeds in the men's division with seven, while WWU, Western Oregon, Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene have three each. But the Vikings appear to have a slight edge over UAA based on its depth. Western Oregon could also challenge for its sixth team title. The Wolves previously won in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008 and most recently in 2011.

On the women's side, UAA has six top seeds and comes into the meet as the favorite. However, Seattle Pacific, WWU and Northwest Nazarene all appear to have the point potential to challenge the Seawolves for the top spot.


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