You go, boys…to the national championship

Is it for real?

The University of Alaska Anchorage men's cross country running team were all smiles and quick feet last weekend at the Division II West Region championships in Bellingham, Wash. Led by sophomore Tobias Schwoerer's second-place finish, the team placed third, earning it's first-ever trip to the NCAA Division II Championships on Nov. 17 in Slippery Rock, Pa. Sophomore Eric Strabel joined Schwoerer in the top 15, garnering All-Region honors. "It's kind of a shocker right now," said junior Andy Elvester. "Things aren't different yet, but when we get on the plane for nationals, it will be."

 

Three out of four, not four out of three

Last year UAA's men finished fourth, but only three teams advanced to nationals. After years of being just a step behind, the Seawolves were a step ahead. The number of teams allowed to advance from each region is dependent on how the region's teams compete in the national championships the previous year. Each region automatically qualifies two teams, and for every other regional team that places in the top eight at nationals, one more regional spot is earned. The West Region teams that advanced last year gave the region a boost and this year four teams are making the trip. What made the difference for the Seawolves? "We were fearless, we had to be. That was the tone we had during the race," said junior Sean Rivers.

 

Coach of the year

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When the guys talk about their accomplishment they're quick to guide misplaced praise. Props for head coach Michael Friess is the tone the conversations take. "I think I¹m more excited for Mike," said Rivers. Friess is in his 12th year with the program, and he's often credited for turning it into a real running program, not just pre-season training for the ski team. "He does so much work for us. All we have to do is run," said Strabel.

 

Taking one for the team 

The men spent Friday afternoon before the race shaving, their heads that is. "We have a lot of pretty boys on the team. That was a big sacrifice," said Rivers with a laugh. Rivers and sophomore Nate Normandin planned for the harriers to shed their hair as a way for the team to bond and relax a little before the race. "We didn¹t know it was going to become a reality until Toby took the plunge," said Rivers. Schwoerer was expected among the dissidents. But the challenge was convincing Strabel and Elvester. "The only way I was going to shave my head was if Eric did too. He¹s the weakest link," said Elvester. How'd they convince him? Racing stripes. After the razors, the hair dye came out and each man ended up with a unique design adorning their head. The result: A fan was overheard saying they never saw the Seawolf men run more like a team than they did that day. And if Rivers ever needs something to fall back on, he's got six references for a career in hair styling.

 

Proud papa

When the men's team found out they qualified, Friess had to honor a deal he'd made the night before. He had to shave his head, too. Rivers says his coach is still going about his daily routine by shampooing and conditioning his shorn head. "He said something about still having hair follicles there," said Rivers. "First we all gave him a blank stare, but then we realized he was serious. We all got a big laugh out of that." Rumor has it the conditioning keeps his scalp shiny. Shiny scalp equals more inquiries and more bragging opportunities.

 

What about those women?

Lest we forget – The Shewolves were satisfied with a seventh-place finish in the regional championships, improving on last year's 10th place result. Led by freshman Stacy Edwards and sophomore Kiersten Lippmann, the women had mixed feelings when the finished the race. In only the second year of the program, the women have stepped up the competition and gone from seventh to third in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and spent two weeks ranked fifth in the Western Region. "We knew it was a long shot to make it in our second year, but it was nice that people actually considered us a threat," said junior Meyoung Blum. But lessons were learned, and goals are set for next year. "We're gonna make it to nationals," said Blum.

 

Men's 10-kilometer race

Team results:

  • UC Davis, 27 points
  • Cal State-Chico, 89
  • UAA, 106
  • UC San Diego, 124

UAA finishers:

  • 2. Tobias Schwoerer, 32:10
  • 13. Eric Strabel, 32:56
  • 16. Andy Elvester, 33:02
  • 27. Sean Rivers, 33:21
  • 51. Nate Normandin, 34:28
  • 55. Vernon Campbell, 34:46
  • 70. Scott Rood, 35:08

Women's 6-kilometer race

Team results:

  • UC Davis, 44 points
  • Humboldt State, 133
  • Cal State-Chico, 139
  • Sonoma State, 154
  • UAA, 224

UAA finishers:

  • 21. Stacy Edwards, 23:09
  • 34. Kiersten Lippmann, 23:34
  • 40. Leslie Boyd, 23:46
  • 42. Meyoung Blum, 23:49
  • 87. Stephanie Myers, 24:53
  • 95. Amy Lambe, 25:11
  • 106. Lindsay Krous, 25:30