WWU competes Saturday at NCAA II West Regional in Spokane

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM Head Coach Pee Wee Halsell
Head Coach Pee Wee Halsell

Nov. 4, 2013

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BELLINGHAM, Wash. - The Western Washington University men's and women's cross country teams compete at the NCAA Division II West Regional Championships on Saturday at the Plantes Ferry Sports Complex located in Spokane.

The Great Northwest Athletic Conference and the Spokane Regional Sports Commission are co-hosts of the event.

The women's six-kilometer race begins at 10:30 a.m., followed by the men's 10-kilometer run at 11:30 a.m. The top five team finishers in both the men's and women's races and the top three individuals not on one of the qualifying teams will travel to the same site in two weeks for the NCAA II National Championships.

The Viking men are seeking a seventh straight trip to nationals, and the women are after their fourth national appearance in six years.

"It's going to be a great meet," said WWU coach Pee Wee Halsell (27th year). "The men are ready to go and the women are definitely capable."

"We love the fact that we're going to be competing in Spokane. We love the course, the venue and it's more our style of weather."

In the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association/NCAA II Top 25 Polls, the Vikings are No.16 in the men's ranking. In the regional ratings, the WWU men are third and women eighth. Two weeks ago at the GNAC Championships, the Viking men placed second, just three points behind nationally No.9 Alaska Anchorage, and the women finished fourth.

"I really like our men's chances as I feel the rankings are solid," Halsell said. "I feel the women's field is one of the deepest ever and I feel that our girls are ready. They really want to go to nationals."

At last year's regionals, the WWU men placed third for the third straight year and for the fourth time in five seasons. They finished second in 2007 and 2009. The women fell to seventh in 2012 after being fourth in 2011, third in 2010, fourth in 2009 and fifth in 2008 when five teams also qualified for nationals.

Chico State and Alaska Anchorage placed one-two in both the men's and women's divisions at last year's regionals. UAA had won the last two crowns in both divisions. Chico State had an eight-year reign as the men's champion end in 2011and has won nine of the last 11 years.

The Chico State men are ranked fourth nationally and Alaska Anchorage ninth, and the UAA women are fourth with Chico State ninth. Regionally, Chico State and UAA are one-two in the men's rating, and UAA and Chico State are one-two in the women's poll with Simon Fraser third.

The WWU men placed second two weeks ago at the GNAC Championships, being outscored by just three points, 32 to 35, after having a perfect score at its own invitational two weeks before.

Pacing the Viking men is Chip Jackson (Sr., Shoreline/Shorewood), who led the team at conference by placing fourth. He was the top collegiate finisher at the WWU Invitational.

Jackson was one of five WWU runners to earn all-conference honors by placing among the top 10. The others were Tanner Boyd (Sr., Camas), Tabor Reedy (Jr., Poulsbo/North Kitsap) and Nathan Richards (R-Jr., Longview/R.A. Long) who placed sixth, seventh and eighth; and Jonathan Quimby (Jr., Ferndale), who finished 10th.

Richards, a transfer from Clark CC two years ago who was a redshirt last season, was named the GNAC Newcomer of the Year.

Completing the men's squad are Juan Castillo (Jr., Lake Stevens), Isaac Griffith (So., Spokane/Lewis & Clark), Cory Johnson (R-Fr., Enumclaw) and Dylan Peterson (Sr., Seattle/Garfield).

Jackson and Peterson earned all-region honors last year, Jackson placing 16th and Peterson 24th. Boyd, Jackson and Peterson have all made two trips to nationals and Reedy one.

The WWU women are led by Katelyn Steen (Jr., Sammamish/Eastlake), who placed second at the 2013 GNAC Championships and was 22nd at regionals as a freshman in 2011, earning all-star honors.

It is the third regional appearance for Steen and Makhaila Thornton (Jr., Bend, OR/Mountain View). Competing for the second time are Taylor Guenther (So., Vancouver/Prairie), Haida Ikeda (Sr., Issaquah), Haley O'Connor (Jr., Sammamish/Eastlake), Austin Reiter (So., Camas), and Arielle Walton (Sr., Issaquah).

Rounding out the women's team are Sofia Marikis (R-Fr., Nine Mile Falls/Lakeside) and Lillianna Stelling (Fr., Langley/South Whidbey).

At the conference meet, Guenther, O'Connor, Stelling. Reiter and Marikis placed 26th through 30th.

Chico State, Alaska Anchorage Top Ranked Teams for NCAA West Regional

SPOKANE, Wash. - Chico State and Alaska Anchorage are the top-ranked teams for the NCAA Division II Men's and Women's West Regional Cross Country Championships, which will be held Saturday (Nov. 9) at the Plantes Ferry Athletic Complex.

The Great Northwest Athletic Conference and the Spokane Regional Sports Commission are co-hosts for the event.

Chico State, which is ranked fourth in the latest USTFCCCA national poll, will be gunning for its 10th men's regional title in the past 12 years.

The Wildcats reclaimed the region crown last season after Alaska Anchorage, which is ranked second in the region and ninth nationally, had won back-to-back titles in 2010 and in 2011, the latter at Plantes Ferry, to end Chico's eight-year title run under coach Gary Towne.

Chico State is also the defending champion in the women's division, but is currently ranked second in the region in back of coach Michael Friess' Seawolves. UAA's women, which is led by 2012 national runner-up Susan Tanui, are ranked fourth nationally just ahead of No. 5 Chico State and No. 6 Simon Fraser.

Both Chico State and Alaska Anchorage are coming off sweeps in their respective conference championships.

The Wildcats posted a perfect score - the first in CCAA history - in winning their 12th consecutive CCAA men's championship at Hooker Oak Park in Chico.

Chico State's Aaron Thomas led a tightly bunched pack in a 6,000-meter time of 24:50.6. The top six finishers were all from Chico and were separated by less than four seconds.

That included Alfonso Cisneros who placed second and Isaac Chavez who finished fourth. Cisneros is the top returning athlete from last year's men's regional meet when he finished third in a 10,000-meter time of 32:06.

Chavez, who placed fourth in last year's regional meet in a time of 32:07, is also one of two returning All-Americans from a year ago when he placed 13th in the national meet at Joplin, Mo. UAA's Dylan Anthony also earned All-American honors last season placing 23rd.

Thomas (11th), Cisneros and Chavez are among 13 returning athletes who earned all-region honors in 2012 by placing in the Top 25 at the region meet in Hawaii.

Chico State returns five all-region selections. In addition to Thomas, Cisneros and Chavez, Dayne Gradone (20th) and Johnny Sanchez (21st) were also all-region selections.

Alaska Anchorage, led by Anthony (13th), returns four 2012 all-region athletes - including Isaac Kangogo (14th), Kevin Rooke (19th) and Dominik Notz (25th).

Kangogo won the GNAC title on Oct. 26 at Monmouth in a time of 24:51.27 leading a 1-2-3 UAA sweep as the Seawolves edged Western Washington by three points for the team title. Freshman Victor Samoie finished second and Anthony finished third.

Western Washington, which is ranked third in the region and 16th nationally, returns two all-region performers - Chip Jackson (6th) and Dylan Peterson (24th).

Also back from last year's Top 25 are Ryan Carrell of Cal Poly Pomona (7th) and Bruk Assefa of San Francisco State (9th). Cal Poly Pomona is ranked fourth in the region and 21st nationally.

The championships will also include PacWest champion Cal Baptist, which is competing in the regional for the first time since gaining full NCAA membership this fall.

Bryton Reim and Sergio Rodriguez finished 1-2 in the PacWest meet to lead the Lancers to their third consecutive conference team title.

The top returnee on the women's side is Tanui, who won the GNAC individual title two weeks ago leading Alaska Anchorage to its fifth consecutive conference team title.

Tanui won the West Region individual title last year covering the 6,000-meter layout in a time of 21:19. She repeated as GNAC champion in a time of 20:24.74 leading the Seawolves to a 13-point win over Simon Fraser in the conference meet.

Alaska Anchorage and Chico State, which outraced Cal State Stanislaus to win the CCAA title (29-77), each return four Top 25 finishers from last year. The Warriors bring a No. 4 regional rank and a No. 24 national rank into the meet.

In addition to Tanui, returnees for the Seawolves include Ivy O'Guinn (13th), Sarah Freistone (17th) and Susan Bick (24th). Freistone did not run in the GNAC meet due to an injury.

The top returnee for Chico State from last year's all-region team is Ayla Granados, who finished third. Granados won the CCAA individual title two weeks ago in a time of 22:10.9 finishing 3.5 seconds ahead of teammate Sara Mikesell. Mikesell placed seventh at regionals last season before going on to join Tanui on the All-American team by placing 14th at the national meet.

Also back off of last year's all-region team from Chico was Jessica Varela and Rebekah Bahra, who placed 15th and 18th, respectively.

In addition to the UAA and CSUC, the only other returning Top 25 finishers from the 2012 meet are Humboldt State's Devon Kelsey, who finished ninth, and Kansas Mackenzie of Simon Fraser, who placed 21st.

PacWest champion Azusa Pacific will not be among the participating teams as they are a provisional NCAA member and won't gain full status until next fall. The conference, however, will be represented by Fiona McKenna of Hawaii Pacific who won the PacWest's individual title in a 5,000-meter time of 17:16.1.

The regional will determine which five men's teams and women's team return to Spokane to compete in the NCAA Division II national meet Nov. 23. In addition to the team qualifiers, the top three men's and women's individuals not on one of the qualifying teams also will earn a spot in the national meet.

NCAA Regional Rankings (National Rank in parentheses)

Men - 1. Chico State (4); 2. Alaska Anchorage (9); 3. Western Washington (16); 4. Cal Poly Pomona (21); 5. UC San Diego; 6. Cal Baptist; 7. San Francisco State; 8, Simon Fraser; 9. Montana State Billings; 10. Humboldt State.

Women - 1. Alaska Anchorage (4); 2. Chico State (5); 3. Simon Fraser (6); 4. Cal State Stanislaus (24); 5. Cal Poly Pomona; 6. UC San Diego; 7. Seattle Pacific; 8. Western Washington; 9. Cal Baptist; 10. Humboldt St