Cross country runners are surpasing expectations

Every so often teams out-do even the highest that is expected of them. This season, the UAA cross country teams have bolted right past everyone’s expectations, even their own.

After not running since their only home meet, the UAA Invitational, the Seawolf runners stepped up and showed who was boss at the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle.

“We feel good about the level of improvement our teams have shown,” Head Coach Michael Friess said.

The men’s team finished with four UAA runners in the top 20, bumping their ranking from 12 to eight in the conference. With their second place finish in Sundodger, the Seawolves also came out above six D1 schools, including rival Western Washington.

The women’s team took first at the Sundodger after placing six runners in the top 20, moving them from unranked in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference to No. 15.

However to most of the runners only the race matters, saying that thinking about the rankings are only a distraction.

“We need to stay focused, determined and take every team as it comes to us,” senior cross-country runner Austin Ellis said.

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Ellis is competing in his fourth year for the Seawolves and took twelfth place at the UAA Invitational against Edinboro.

The Seawolves have not been distracted this season and even have a few pleasant surprises on their teams.

Jacob Parisien came into the picture as a freshman this year, hailing from Palmer High School where he helped the Palmer cross country team to many titles, including fourth in the 2008 Alaska State Cross Country Championships. Parisien’s success was anticipated but also a “pleasant surprise” Coach Friess said.

Another pleasant surprise has been sophomore Emma Bohman who placed 11th in the Sundodger Invitational. Bohman was one of only four women runners to compete in all six events last year, finishing second for the Seawolves in the 2007 seasons conference meet.

Other impressive newcomers have been UAA’s leading man Marko Cheseto and freshman Laura Rombach. Junior Laura Carr returned to the scene this year after red-shirting in the 2007 season. Carr has already placed fifth in the Sundodger Invitational and took third at UAA’s Invitational.

“I think Laura Rombach has been a great boom,” Carr said.

The Seawolves know that all the rankings and practices are leading up to Conference finals, so they have been scoping out the competition.

“The competition in our conference as well as our region is very competitive,” Coach Friess said.

UAA cross-country is not going to count any team out; they even have their eye on a few in particular.

On the men’s side, the Seawolves are anticipating a lot of competition from California State University of Chico, who have the returning fastest GNAC runner, Scott Bauhs. Bauhs not only took the fastest time in the history of Division II 10,000 meter but also tried out for the 2008 Olympic trials.

While the men’s team is keeping track of Bauhs, the women’s team is sizing up returning GNAC champion Seattle Pacific University.

“Our toughest competition hands down is Seattle Pacific in the region,” Carr said. “But we always keep a healthy competition with them.”

While their next meet is a few weeks away on Oct. 11 in San Diego, the Seawolves remained focused on training.

“The dynamics of a cross country race are very rigorous, with the long breaks (between meets) we recover, train more, and recover from training.” Coach Friess said.

With the improvement thus far the Seawolf teams look as though they will keep flying past records and expectations.