Karolin Anders is a former member of the UAA track and field team.
The Seawolves cross-country traveled to Monmouth, Oregon to face competitors from all over the West Coast on Saturday Nov. 4. Both teams’ ultimate goal was to qualify for the NCAA Division II Cross-Country Championships.
“At the end of the day, the regional meet is about getting to the national meet. That’s the purpose,” cross-country head coach Michael Friess said. “They only give All-American awards out at the national championship.”
The women’s team was able to accomplish their goal by finishing second in the field of 30 teams, earning an automatic bid for the national meet on Nov. 18.
California Baptist University, who is also ranked first in the nation, took the win with a score of 68. The Seawolves scored 84 points to stay well ahead of the rest of the field.
Caroline Kurgat beat the remaining 208 competitors to win her first West Regional title and put herself in position to win a national title. She demolished the course record as she covered the 6-kilometer course in 20 minutes, 26.1 seconds — about 40 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, Anett Somogyi of Cal Baptist University.
“It was awesome winning my first regional meet. This was one of my goals at the beginning of the season and I am so glad I attained it,” Kurgat said. “It was our goal to proceed to nationals as a team and I think our team is in a position to place in the top five. We are all motivated to make it happen.”
Also scoring for the “Shewolves” were Zennah Jepchumba (15th, 21:34), Danielle McCormick (21st, 21:47), Mariah Burroughs (22nd, 21:48) and Emmah Chelimo (25th, 21:52).
Junior Kimberly Coscia (26th, 21:54) finished just behind Chelimo. The pack of five — Jepchumba, McCormick, Burroughs, Chelimo and Coscia — finished within 20 seconds of each other.
“The last two races we have done a good job of staying packed up and using each other to push through tough parts of the race,” Coscia said. “It wasn’t really planned that way; that is just how things panned out.”
The women’s strong team performance over the flat, four-loop course with a few rolling hills, shows their determination to perform well as a team and push each other to a top team finish at the national meet.
“Cal Baptist is the no. 1 ranked team in the country and we ran pretty close to them,” Friess said. “I honestly think if we can pull closer to their second and third runners, we can potentially beat them at the national meet. The women are a top five team nationally.”
Coscia agrees with Friess’ prediction and credits her team’s success to their motivation and great dedication.
“This team continues to make me proud,” Coscia said. “This is the deepest, strongest, most motivated group of ladies I’ve raced with and it goes to show that we’re capable of more than we know. Nationals is another chance for another solid race.”
After having won the West Regional team title on the same course back in 2015, the men’s cross-country team placed fifth in the competitive race scoring 172 points.
Senior Edwin Kangogo lead the Green and Gold with his sixth-place finish. Kangogo covered the 10-kilometer course in 30 minutes, 11.5 seconds. The first five individual finishers automatically advance to the NCAA Division II Championship, but Kangogo is still more than likely to receive a spot for the meet due to his performance and the complex qualification procedures.
“I’m more than excited to have qualified for nationals today. Going into the race, I knew that I needed to give my best to help my team advance to nationals,” Kangogo said. “I’m sure every one of our guys thought the same and gave their best today.”
Kangogo was followed by Nathan Kipchumba (29th, 31:03), Nickson Koech (37th, 31:13), Jorge Sanchez (40th, 31:18) and Felix Kemboi (60th, 31:45).
The men’s team was reminded of their sport’s physical demand when their teammate Kemboi wasn’t able to perform to his abilities due to back pain.
“Felix’s lower back really started to bother him during the race. He was struggling,” Friess said. “Things like this happen. Obviously, it was a big hit for us, having him run as far back as he did. If he is running the way he is capable of running normally, that would take 50 points of our total.”
Taking 50 points of their total would have put the Seawolves in the top three and secured them an automatic seat at the national meet. Still, the “Hewolves” are likely to qualify for the national meet as a team due to their strong performances throughout the season and especially, their placing at the Division II Conference Crossover in Romeoville, Illinois in October.
Kipchumba also believes in the potential of his team and the hard work they have put in this season so far.
“We actually have a solid team and we have been training very well,” Kipchumba said. “We could have performed way better than fifth, if Felix was feeling good. But it is not over yet and we’re looking forward to run hard at the national meet and show off our hard work.”
The individuals and teams eligible to compete at the Division II NCAA Cross-Country Championships on Nov. 18 will be announced later this week. A total of 32 teams and a minimum of 24 additional individuals per gender will be selected according to the Men’s and Women’s Cross-Country Committee selection criteria. Due to the West Regional’s strong national presence, it is likely five or six teams of the region will compete at nationals.