WWU Men 2nd, Women 4th in GNAC Preseason Poll

Aug. 28, 2017

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- The Western Washington University men's cross country team has been predicted to place 2nd in the conference while the WWU women's cross country team has been predicted to finish 4th by the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, announced Monday.

The WWU men totaled 95 points to place 2nd in the poll and received three first-place votes with the other eight first-place votes going to seven-time defending champion Alaska Anchorage. The Vikings placed 3rd at the 2016 GNAC Championships and are positioned just ahead of 2016 runner-up Simon Fraser (92 points) in the poll.

On the women's side, the Vikings totaled 83 points in 4th place. Two-time defending champion Alaska Anchorage (107 points) edged out Simon Fraser (102 points) for the top spot in the poll while Seattle Pacific (88 points) ranks just ahead of WWU in 3rd.

The Vikings are led by head coach Pee Wee Halsell, entering his 31st year leading the Vikings. The WWU men return 3 of 5 scoring placers and 5 of the team's top 7 finishers from the 2016 GNAC Championships while the WWU women also return 3 of 5 scoring placers and 4 of the team's top 7 finishers from the conference meet last year.

For the Viking men, senior Isaac Derline (Kent, WA/Kentridge) returns as an All-GNAC performer in 2016 after placing 3rd at the conference meet (25:07.80) before finishing 5th at the NCAA II West Regional (30:08.10) and advancing as an individual to represent the Vikings at the national championships. Senior Andrew Wise (Denver, CO/East) returns after earning All-West Region accolades with a 20th-place finish (30:47.00) at the NCAA II West Regional last season.

Also among the returners for the Vikings are additional 2016 conference meet scoring placers in redshirt sophomore Peter Butler (Port Angeles, WA), junior Dylan Hayes (Seattle, WA/Garfield) and junior Justin Irvine (Yakima, WA/East Valley), along senior Sean Eustis (Sr., Washougal, WA). Butler (24th -- 26:17.80), Hayes (33rd -- 26:27.00) and Irvine (38th -- 26:35.50) were all among the top 40 finishers at the 2016 GNAC Championships while Eustis placed was 28th at the NCAA II West Regional in 2015 and placed 63rd at the national championships in 2014.

For the WWU women, senior Lillianna Stelling (Langley, WA/South Whidbey) returns as the top Viking conference meet finisher after placing 12th in 22:29.30 last year before earning All-West Region honors with a 21st-place regional finish (22:00.60). Senior Maddy Hutchison (Snoqualmie, WA/Mount Si) returns after placing 29th (23:09.50) last year at the GNAC Championships while sophomore Peyton Shinnick (Maple Valley, WA/Tahoma) was 31st (23:17.40) at the conference meet and sophomore Sophia Galvez (Los Alamos, NM) was 34th (23:21.70).

The Vikings also welcome back a pair of experienced runners in senior Alexandra Laiblin (Oak Harbor, WA), who was 25th at the 2015 GNAC Championships, and redshirt sophomore Tracy Melville (Lamont, WA/Lind-Ritzville/Sprague), who was 10th at the 2015 GNAC Championships and 52nd at the 2015 national championships. Laiblin did not compete in the championship part of the schedule while Melville redshirted in 2016.

WWU is set to host the 2017 GNAC Championships on Oct. 21 at East Lake Padden Park, marking the third consecutive season that the conference meet will be held in Bellingham.

The Vikings open the season on Sept. 9 at the CWU Invitational in Yakima, Wash. WWU has five meets on the schedule prior to the GNAC Championships, including the 44th Annual WWU Classic on Oct. 7 at East Lake Padden Park.

Here is a breakdown of the men's and women's preseason GNAC cross country polls:

2017 GNAC MEN'S CROSS COUNTRY PRESEASON POLL

Rank

Team (First Place Votes)

2016 GNAC Finish

Pts.

1.

Alaska Anchorage (8)

1st (31 pts.)

108

2.

Western Washington (3)

3rd (86 pts.)

95

3.

Simon Fraser

2nd (60 pts.)

92

4.

Western Oregon

4th (105 pts.)

81

5.

Northwest Nazarene

6th (178 pts.)

71

6.

Central Washington

7th (184 pts.)

58

7.

Montana State Billings

5th (157 pts.)

47

8.

Alaska

8th (211 pts.)

38

9.

Concordia

9th (226 pts.)

30

10.

Seattle Pacific

11th (300 pts.)

22

11.

Saint Martin's

10th (285 pts.)

19

 2017 GNAC WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY PRESEASON POLL

Rank

Team (First Place Votes)

2016 GNAC Finish

Pts.

1.

Alaska Anchorage (9)

1st (45 pts.)

107

2.

Simon Fraser (2)

2nd (56 pts.)

102

3.

Seattle Pacific

3rd (92 pts.)

88

4.

Western Washington

4th (114 pts.)

83

5.

Western Oregon

9th (197 pts.)

64

6.

Central Washington

6th (188 pts.)

61

7.

Northwest Nazarene

7th (189 pts.)

45

8.

Saint Martin's

5th (139 pts.)

40

9.

Alaska

8th (194 pts.)

30

10.

Montana State Billings

11th (324 pts.)

22

11.

Concordia

10th (276 pts.)

18

Points awarded on 11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1

The complete 2017 WWU cross country schedule is as follows:

DATE

MEET

SITE

TIME

Sept. 9 (Sat.)

Central Washington Invitational

Host: Central Washington University

Yakima, WA (Apple Ridge Run)

10 am

Sept. 16 (Sat.)

Sundodger Invitational

Host: University of Washington

Seattle, WA (Lincoln Park)

9 am

Sept. 23 (Sat.)

Roy Griak Invitational

Host: University of Minnesota

St. Paul, MN (Les Bolstad Golf Course)

9:50 am CT

Sept. 23 (Sat.)

Saint Martin's University Invitational

Host: Saint Martin's University

Lacey, WA (SMU Campus)

9:30 am

Oct.  7 (Sat.)

44th Annual WWU Classic

Host: Western Washington University

BELLINGHAM (E. Lake Padden Park)

10 am

Oct.  21 (Sat.)

GNAC Championships

Host. Western Washington University

BELLINGHAM (E. Lake Padden Park)

10 am

Nov.  4 (Sat.)

NCAA Division II West Regional

Host: Western Oregon University

Monmouth, OR (Ash Creek Preserve)

10 am

Nov.  18 (Sat.)

NCAA Division II National Championships

Host: Evansville Sports Corporation

Evansville, IN (Angel Mounds)

TBA

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