Seawolf cross-country wins both men’s and women’s conference titles

On Oct. 26, the Seawolf cross-country teams traveled to Billings, Montana to compete in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships. In addition to an already high-pressure meet, UAA and the other conference teams were subjected to surprise conditions when they woke up Saturday morning.

While most teams arrived in Montana during sunshine and 60-degree temperatures on Thursday and Friday, Saturday came with sub-freezing temperatures and fresh snow on the ground.

Emmah Chelimo and Felix Kemboi were named GNAC Cross-Country Athletes of the Year after their performances in the GNAC Championships on Oct. 26. Photo courtesy of Jenna Martin of GNAC Media.

Despite the unexpected conditions, the Seawolves won both the men’s and women’s individual titles. Senior Emmah Cherish won the women’s 6,000-meter race for the second year in a row and junior Felix Kemboi won the men’s 8,000-meter race.

As just the eighth UAA female to take the GNAC title and third ever to win two back-to-back, Chelimo finished the women’s race with a time of 21:31, eight seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.

Chelimo was also named the GNAC Women’s Cross-Country Athlete of the Year.

“It feels really good to have won; I came in ready to defend my title. I was hoping that the weather would be much nicer but knowing that the conditions were the same for everybody made it not so bad and just forced us to roll with it,” Chelimo said. “Now we are ready to go to regionals and hopefully qualify for nationals.”

Similarly, Kemboi was named GNAC Men’s Cross-Country Athlete of the Year. He finished the race in 24:44, 10 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.

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“The weather was absolutely not great. It was snowing, but there was nothing we could do about that. Inside my mind, mentally, it was quite tough, but I was ready to move. I used my experience last year at GNAC to come in with the mindset to win, so 3K into the race I knew I needed to move and get a gap between the pack and me,” Kemboi said.

Assistant coach Michael Friess was thrilled with Chelimo and Kemboi’s results, as well as other runners on the team.

“I was very proud of Emmah [Chelimo] and Felix [Kemboi] for their individual wins, and Joan [Kipsanai] earning all-conference honors was fantastic,” Friess said. “I was [also] really impressed with the performances by Skylar [McIntyre] and Eduardo [Orozco], they really buoyed the men’s team.”

Junior Nancy Jeptoo and freshman Joan Kipsanai also finished the women’s race in the top eight with Chelimo, solidifying a spot in the All-GNAC selections.

Jeptoo finished in third place with a time of 21:55, while Kipsanai finished 25 seconds later in sixth place (22:20). Kipsanai was named the GNAC Freshman of the Year.

Other UAA female finishers included junior Ruth Cvancara in 18th (23:00) and senior Yvonne Jeschke in 32nd (23:37).

As for the men, junior Wesley Kirui was the only other runner to earn All-GNAC honors. Kirui finished third in 25:10.

In addition, freshman Skylar McIntyre finished 15th in 25:43, senior Eduardo Orozco placed 28th (26:23) and Jacob Moos came in 32nd (26:33).

Overall, the UAA women’s team placed second with a total of 60 points, just behind Western Washington with 53 points.

The UAA men placed third with 79 points, behind second-place Simon Fraser (76 points) and first-place Western Washington (38 points).

The Seawolves will be back in action for the NCAA West Regional Championships in Monmouth, Oregon on Nov. 9.