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UAA runners rise to the occasion at nationals

Doyle Woody

As UAA's cross-country running team has developed into a Division II regional power and then a part of the national conversation, coach Michael Friess' athletes have become known for delivering big performances in big races.

The Seawolves furnished more of the same Saturday in Spokane, Wash.

UAA's women finish fourth at the NCAA Division II national championships for their highest placing in program history. The men generated a seventh-place finish that eclipsed their national ranking. And the Seawolves bagged a program-record five All-America awards.

On the women's side, sophomore Joyce Kipchumba earned All-America status with her 13th place finish in the six-kilometer (3.73-mile) race and senior Susan Tanui, national runner-up last season, collected her second All-America by finishing 16th.

Junior Dylan Anthony finished 25th in the men's 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) race to earn his second All-America, freshman Victor Samoi took 32nd to claim All-America and junior Isaac Kangogo also landed an All-America honor with his 40th-place finish.

This marked the third straight season both Seawolves teams have finished among the top eight in the nation at the national meet, which features 32 teams in each gender. Overall, more than 300 teams compete in Division II cross country.

"By and large, we show up to our big races, ready to run,'' Friess said by cellphone. "That's the focus of our season.''

By finishing fourth - four teams earn podium status - UAA's women claimed a national trophy for the first time. Their previous best team finish was fifth place in 2009.

"Our women's team has been knocking on the door to get a national trophy for a number of years,'' Freiss said. "This team all year has been really strong. We only had seven athletes, so we couldn't afford the luxury of anyone getting hurt, or sick, or over-trained, and I'm really proud of the way they conducted themselves.''

Grand Valley State (Mich.) won the women's team title and Jennifer Agnew, a senior from the University of Mary (N.D.) claimed the individual crown, covering the course at Plantes Ferry Athletic Complex in 20 minutes, 50.7 seconds.

Kipchumba's 13th-place finish came in 21:27.5 and is the fifth-highest NCAA finish by a Seawolves woman. Tanui finished 16th in 21:29.9. Senior Ivy O'Guinn (47th in 21:57.3), senior Susan Bick (69th in 22:21.4) and junior Bryn Haebe (117th in 22:46.7) rounded out UAA's scorers. Also competing were sophomore Jessica Pahkala (128th in 22:52.0) and senior Christi Schmitz (195th in 23:43.0).

Friess said O'Guinn, Bick and Haebe finished so strongly their late surges proved pivotal to capturing fourth place as a team. UAA entered ranked No. 4 in the nation.

"Those three must have passed 30 to 40 runners combined in the last kilometer or kilometer and a half,''Friess said.

Adams State (Colo.) won the men's team title for the fifth time in the last six years and was spearheaded by Tabor Stevens' victory in 29:50.1

Anthony finished 25th in 31:02.6, Samoi claimed 32nd in 31:01.6 and Kangogo took 40th in 31:17.9. Also scoring for UAA, which entered ranked No. 10 in the nation, were junior Kevin Rooke (87th in 32:03.8) and sophomore Dominik Notz (126th in 32:36.0). Sophomore Andrey Ionashku finished 162nd in 33:02.1 and freshman Michael Mendenhall was 135th in 32:39.4.

All seven of UAA's men's finishers have eligibility remaining in cross country, which should make the Seawolves strong again next season.

Meanwhile, only three of the seven UAA women who competed Saturday have cross country eligibility left, so Friess and his staff will be recruiting to regain depth.

Find Doyle Woody's hockey blog at adn.com/hockeyblog


By DOYLE WOODY
dwoody@adn.com