Both Viking teams competing at national championships on Saturday

Tanner Boyd

Nov. 18, 2013

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - For the fifth time since becoming a full NCAA member in 1998, both the men's and women's cross country teams will be representing Western Washington University at the NCAA Division II National Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Plantes Ferry Sports Complex in Spokane.

The six-kilometer women's race begins at 10:30 a.m., followed by the 10-kilometer men's race at 11:30 a.m.

The other four appearances by the WWU squads together were from 2008 to 2011. It is the seventh trip overall for the men, going every year since 2007, and the fifth junket in six seasons for the women, who did not compete last year.

The Viking men are 19th and the women 25th in the latest United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches/NCAA II Top 25 polls.

"We want to beat our national rankings, that's always our goal," said WWU coach Pee Wee Halsell (27th year). "I believe our men can finish in the top 10 and the women in the top 15, but they're going to have to work for it."

WWU qualified for nationals by finishing fourth in the men's run and fifth in the women's race at the West Regional, which was held Nov. 9 on the same course as nationals. Adams State is the top-ranked men's team, and Grand Valley State leads the women.

The WWU men placed 21st at nationals last year after placing among the top 11 in each of the previous five seasons. They were 10th in 2011, ninth in 2010, fourth in 2009 and 10th in 2008.

The Viking women were 12th in 2011, 10th in 2010, eighth in 2009, and 10th in 2008.

Three Viking seniors making their third national appearances for the men are Chip Jackson (Shoreline/Shorewood), Tanner Boyd (Camas) and Dylan Peterson (Seattle/Garfield). Going for the second time is Tabor Reedy (Jr., Poulsbo/North Kitsap). Boyd was unable to complete his race at regionals, dropping out midway because of a heel injury.

Completing the WWU men's contingent are Isaac Griffth (So., Spokane/Lewis & Clark), Nathan Richards (Jr., Longview/R.A. Long/Clark CC) and Jonathan Quimby (Jr., Ferndale/Whatcom CC). The alternate is Cory Johnson (R-Fr., Enumclaw),

"A decision won't be made on Boyd's availability until later in the week," Halsell said. "It will be based on if there would be any long-term health effects for him if he competed. Without him, it will definitely be tougher for us."

Jackson, who placed fourth at regionals, Griffith (19th), Reedy (20th) and Richards (23rd) were region all-stars by placing among the top 25. Earning all-conference honors by finishing among the top 10 were Jackson, Boyd, Reedy, Richards and Quimby.

Prior to the season, the WWU men received a blow when their top runner, All-American Dak Riek, was found to be ineligible just a few days before the opening of training camp.

"As disheartening as that was, it really brought the men's squad together," said Halsell. "They no longer could rely on Dak, they had to rely on one another if they were going to go to nationals."

For the WWU women, Katelyn Steen (Jr., Sammamish/Eastlake) and Haley O'Connor (Jr., Sammamish/Eastlake), are both making their second national appearances. In 2011, Steen was 58th and O'Connor was 99th.

Steen placed second at the conference meet and third at regionals.

Completing WWU's squad are Taylor Guenther (So., Vancouver/Prairie), who was a regional all-star by placing 12th at regionals, Austen Reiter (So., Camas), Haida Ikeda (Sr., Issaquah), Lillianna Stelling (Fr., Langley/South Whidbey) and Sofia Marikis (Fr., Nine Mile Falls/Lakeside). Arielle Walton (Sr., Issaquah) is the alternate.

"The women were a bit of a surprise," Halsell said. "We had to see what the freshmen were going to bring to the table, but at the same time the veterans were doing a great job of rallying the troops."

Halsell says running nationals at Spokane should help the Vikings.

"We like the course being in our backyard. We will have a lot of fans there and that will help us.

"It's a good, fair course. If you go out and get in position, you can make things happen. The key for us is to go over there and run our best."

Cross Country: NCAA Division II National Meet Saturday at Plantes Ferry

SPOKANE, Wash. - The NCAA Division II National Cross County meet returns to the Plantes Ferry Athletic Complex Saturday for the second time in three years.

Thirty-two men's and 32 women's teams will compete for the national team title. In addition, 24 men and 24 women qualified for the meet as individuals.

The women's 6,000-meter race kicks off the competition at 10:30 a.m. followed by the men's 10,000-meter run at 11:30 a.m.

Adams State is the defending men's team champion. The Grizzlies, who have won four of the last five national titles, come in as the No. 1 ranked team in the latest USTFCCCA poll. Western State (Colo.), which won the team title in the 2011 meet at Plantes Ferry, is ranked second.

Grand Valley State (Mich.), which is the No. 1 ranked team in the latest national poll, is the defending women's team champion. Adams State, which won seven straight national team titles between 2003 and 2009, is ranked second.

Thirty-six past All-Americans - 18 men and 18 women - are available to compete in the national meet.

The top returnees from last year's national meet are Adams State's Kevin Batt and Susan Tanui of the University of Alaska Anchorage. Both athletes finished second a year ago.

Batt is one of five returning All-Americans for the Grizzlies, though two of them - Matthew Daniels who finished fourth in the 2012 national meet and John Luterbach who placed 15th - did not run in the South Central Regional two weeks ago in Canyon, Tex.

The other two returning All-Americans for Adams are Tabor Stevens, who placed third and Jovanny Godinez, who finished 28th in the 2012 championships.

The only other returnee from last year's Men's Top 10 is Alex Monroe of Lock Haven, who placed fifth. Two weeks ago Monroe won the Atlantic Regional individual title for the third year in a row. Monroe, who placed 10th in 2011 and 32nd 2010, will be seeking his fourth All-American award (Top 40 finish).

Isaac Chavez of Chico State will also be seeking his fourth All-American prize. He finished 13th in the 2012 national meet, fifth in 2010 and third in the 2011 meet in Spokane. Chavez earned his fourth straight Top 5 finish in winning the West Regional individual title on Nov. 9 in Spokane.

Colorado Mines has four returnees from last year's Top 40 - Phil Schneider (20th), Derek Alcorn (22nd), Andrew Epperson (29th) and Frank Socha (36th).

Tanui, who has won the last two West Regional titles, is one of six women back from last year's Top 10.

Also returning to challenge Tanui will be Jessica Janecke (4th) and Allyson Winchester (6th) of Grand Valley State, Augustana's Runa Falch (8th) and Kristin Brondbo (10th) and Julie Pack of Western State (9th). Augustana was the 2011 team champion in Spokane.

Grand Valley and Adams State each return three All-Americans from last year. In addition to Janecke and Winchester, Hannah Osborn (26th) also is back for the Lakers. The Grizzlies return Kelly Lamb (13th), Lauren Martin (38th) and Alyssa Selve (39th).

Seven GNAC Teams Represented in National Meet

Athletes from seven of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference's 10 schools will be represented at Plantes Ferry.

Qualifying for the men's championship were Alaska Anchorage and Western Washington. The Seawolves are ranked 10th nationally and the Vikings are ranked 25th.

GNAC teams claimed four of the five West Region berths in the women's division, led by Region champion Alaska Anchorage which is ranked fourth nationally. Simon Fraser which is ranked sixth, No. 19 Seattle Pacific and No. 25 Western Washington also qualified.

Three GNAC athletes - Connie Morgan of Central Washington, Natalie Evans of Northwest Nazarene and Annie Wade of Western Oregon - also qualified as individuals.

CHAMPIONSHIP NOTES: Tickets for Saturday's championships are $5. Children under 2 will be admitted free ... Live video will be available at ... Grand Valley's two teams come to Spokane after winning their 13th (women) and 12th (men) consecutive Midwest Regional titles ... Johnnie Guy of Southern Indiana won the men's Midwest Regional title. The former Division II 5,000 and 10,000 meter track All-American, will be joined in Saturday's race by his identical twin brother, Josh ... Among the competitors in the women's race will be Ashley Nichols from Inglemoor High School in Kenmore, Wash. Nichols competes for Bentley (Mass.).