Three-time All-American Micah Chelimo will lead an experienced Alaska Anchorage squad which will seek its third straight GNAC men’s cross country team title Saturday at the Ash Creek Preserve cross country course on the campus of Western Oregon University.
Meanwhile, the UAA women will be seeking its fourth consecutive GNAC team title. The men’s race will begin at 10 a.m, followed by the women’s race at 11.
Juneau-Douglas High School graduate’s Katie Krehlik, a Seawolves senior, and Jesse Miller, a Seawolves freshmen, have put in quality runs in the team’s three competitions this season.
At the Hawaii Pacific Invitational 5K the Seawolves women and men took first place in a field of four teams. UAA’s Susan Tanui won the individual women’s race in 18:06 and Krehlik was 5th in 18:45. Chelimo won the men’s race in 15:33 and Miller was 21st in 17:36.
At the University of Hawaii Big Wave Invitational 5K the Seawolves’ women and men again swept the team titles, in a field of five teams. Tanui was 1st in 18:06 for the women and Krehlik was 4th in 18:51. Chelimo won for the men in 15:43 and Miller was 30th in 17:35.
A 6K faced the UAA women and a 10K the men in the Western Washington University Invitational. The Seawloves women were first in a field of 11 teams and the Seawolves men 2nd among 16 squads. Tanui again placed 1st in 21:31 and Krehlik was 29th in 23:09. Chelimo also won his third straight individual title for the men in 31:12 and Miller was 106th in 34:32.
Chelimo is the defending men’s individual champion and will be seeking his fourth Top 10 all-conference finish in the 8,000-meter race.
Chelimo is one of five returning all-conference performers for the nationally seventh-ranked Seawolves.
Alfred Kangogo will also be seeking his fourth all-conference award, a feat that has been accomplished just four times but never by a UAA athlete. Kangogo finished fourth in last year’s meet.
Also returning for the Seawolves are Dylan Anthony and Isaac Kangogo, who finished seventh and ninth, respectively a year ago and Jake Parisien, who had Top 10 finishes in both 2008 and 2010 to earn all-conference honors. Anthony was last year’s GNAC Freshman of the Year award winner.
Only two other athletes from last year’s Top 10 return – Western Washington’s Tyler Cannon (5th) and Dak Riek (10th). Cannon, Riek and Chip Jackson will anchor a Viking team which has won three team titles and finished second four times in the past seven years. The Vikings are ranked 10th nationally.
Outside of Chelimo, Jackson is the only GNAC athlete to win an individual title this fall. He finished first in the open division of the University of Washington Sundodger, covering the 8,000-meter course in a time of 24:54.55.
That time, along with a 24:54.39 time by Western Oregon’s Connor Kasler in the Sundodger Invitational division is the quickest 8K time this fall among GNAC athletes.
Chelimo, who has three wins this season and eight career victories, hasn’t run that distance this fall as he won two 5K races in Hawaii in times of 15:33 and 15:43 before finishing first earlier this month in the Western Washington Invitational in a 10,000 meter time of 31:12.
In both Hawaii races, he led UAA to perfect team scores of 15. At the WWU Invitational, the Seawolves finished with a NCAA Division II best team score of 40 points, easily outdistancing the third-place Vikings’ 80-point total.
In addition to the Seawolves and Vikings, Western Oregon has been nationally ranked this fall. The Wolves are currently 20th. Five GNAC teams are ranked in the regional poll – UAA (2nd), WWU (3rd), WOU (4th), Seattle Pacific (8th) and Northwest Nazarene (10th).
Susan Tanui, who is unbeaten this fall, and Miriam Kipng’eno, who finished third in both the GNAC and NCAA West Regionals last year, will lead UAA’s women in its quest to repeat.
Kipng’eno, who finished fourth at HPU and fifth in both the Big Wave and Western Washington Invitational, will need a Top 10 finish to become the eighth athlete in GNAC history to earn all-conference honors four times. The last to accomplish that feat was Sarah Porter of Western Washington (2007-10).
In addition to Kipng’eno, four other former all-conference performers are back to compete in the 2012 championships.
UAA’s Ivy O’Guinn finished fourth a year ago, while Lindsey Butterworth of Simon Fraser placed fifth and Whitney Mickelsen of Montana State Billings finished 10th. Raphaela Sieber of Alaska Fairbanks earned all-conference honors in 2010 when she finished eighth.
Butterworth, along with Tanui, Erika Crock of Saint Martin’s, Robyn Zeidler of Seattle Pacific and Taylor Guenther of Western Washington have won races this fall.
Butterworth led Simon Fraser to the team title in the Sonoma State Invitational covering the 6,000-meter course in a time of 22:05. She also finished 12th in the invitational division of the University of Washington Sundodger in a time of 21:45.18. Only Tanui’s winning time at WWU has been quicker.
Crock won the Puget Sound Invitational in a time of 25:11. Zeidler won the Alaska Nanooks West Ridge Invitational in a time of 22:56.9 and Guenther won the Central Washington University Invitational in a 4,000-meter time of 15:33.
Alaska Anchorage, which has won three consecutive West Regional titles, is one of four GNAC teams that are nationally ranked. The Seawolves are ranked fifth. Simon Fraser, Seattle Pacific and Western Washington are ranked ninth, 24th and 31st, respectively.
In the West Regional poll, UAA is ranked first. Simon Fraser (3rd), Seattle Pacific (4th) and Western Washington (6th) are also ranked. After the GNAC’s, depending on Seawolves’ finishes and placings, the West Regional looms and then the NCAA Championships.