MONMOUTH, Ore. – Alaska Anchorage senior Caroline Kurgat captured her first regional title at the NCAA Div. II West Region Cross Country Championships, on Saturday, powering No. 4 UAA to a second-place team finish and automatic berth to nationals.

Senior All-American Edwin Kangogo led the No. 16 Alaska Anchorage men’s team with a sixth-place individual performance, helping UAA place fifth as a team in a tightly contested field. The Seawolves did not receive an automatic bid by placing in the top three, but have a strong chance of obtaining an at-large berth to nationals.     

Kurgat, a two-time All-American and GNAC champion, finished runner-up the past two seasons in the regional meet, but left little doubt in her victory at Ash Creek Preserve. Kurgat surged ahead of the field a mile into the race, but no competitors could cover the gap. She covered the 6-kilometer course in record time, 20 minutes, 26.1 seconds – nearly 40 seconds quicker than runner-up Anett Somogyi of Cal Baptist (21:04.5).

“Coming into this meet I just wanted to know how fit I am and how I can work it out with myself,” Kurgat said after the race. “I wanted to know how close anyone else was to me.”

Kurgat finished second to teammate Joyce Chelimo in 2015 – who held the old course record of 20:42.3 – and in 2016 to Cal State San Bernardino’s Laura Aceves by three seconds.

“Caroline (Kurgat) showed that if she can run this way at the national meet she has a legitimate shot at an individual national title, which is pretty special,” head coach Michael Friess said.

No. 1 Cal Baptist captured the team title with 68 points, ahead of UAA’s 84. No. 5 Chico State grabbed the third and final automatic berth to the national meet (105 pts). Cal Baptist (Pac West), Alaska Anchorage (GNAC), and Chico State (CCAA) won their conference meets two weeks ago.

“The women’s team pushed the No. 1 team really hard and they showed that they are a legitimate top five team nationally,” Friess said.

Alaska Anchorage advanced to the national meet for the 10th consecutive season, dating back to 2008. UAA has finished third-or-better each time at the regional meet during that stretch.  

The team also placed five runners in the top 25, with the sixth finishing 26th. Runners who placed in the top 25 earned All-West Region recognition. Five All-Region performers is the most since 2012 for the women’s program (six that season).

Junior Zennah Jepchumba (15th, 21:34.2), junior Danielle McCormick of Soldotna (21st, 21:47.0), senior Mariah Burroughs of Wasilla (22nd, 21:47.7), and sophomore Emmah Chelimo (25th, 21:52.1) garnered All-Region status for the first time. Junior Kimberly Coscia (26th, 21:54.1) and senior Tamara Perez (69th, 22:40.8) also placed strong in the field of 209 finishers.

In the men’s race, David Ribich of Western Oregon won on his home course in 29:49.2. UAA’s Edwin Kangogo became a four-time All-West Region performer after finishing sixth and covering 10 kilometers in 30:11.5. The men’s squad has featured an All-Region runner in 13 straight seasons, going back to 2005.

UAA’s other scorers were senior Nathan Kipchumba (29th, 31:03.4), freshman Nickson Koech (37th, 31:13.2), junior Jorge Sanchez (40th, 31:18.2), and freshman Felix Kemboi (60th, 31:44.6).

No. 4 Chico State secured its second consecutive men’s team title, edging No. 6 Cal Baptist (55-84). No. 13 Western Oregon (3rd, 121 pts) won a tiebreaker with No. 22 Simon Fraser (4th, 121 pts) to secure the final automatic bid.

Teams 5-7 featured a closely contested finish. No. 16 Alaska Anchorage (172 pts) bettered Academy of Art (174 pts), and No. 9 Cal Poly Pomona (178 pts). UAA has made nine consecutive national appearances, but will have to wait to see if their streak continues. The West Region was strong enough this year to allow five, and possibly six teams to compete at nationals.

“I still think that their fifth-place showing will qualify them for the national meet,” Friess said. “Based on how the other regions ran and how we did at the Lewis Conference Crossover, that should get us in.”

32 men’s and women’s teams each advance to the NCAA Championships, with the top three teams from the regional meets automatically advancing (24 total from eight regions). Eight other teams will be selected on an at-large basis for each gender.

The women’s team and Edwin Kangogo, who placed well enough individually, are in. The remaining teams and individuals will be selected by the NCAA on Monday, around 1 p.m. AST. The Div. II NCAA Cross Country Championships are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 18 at 7:15 a.m. AST in Evansville, Ind.

UAA Results

Women – 6K

#      NAME                                      TIME
1.     Caroline Kurgat                           20:26.1
15.    Zennah Jepchumba                          21:34.2
21.    Danielle McCormick                        21:47.0
22.    Mariah Burroughs                          21:47.7
25.    Emmah Chelimo                             21:52.1
26.    Kimberly Coscia                           21:54.1
69.    Tamara Perez                              22:40.8
209    Finishers

Top 10 Team Scores
#    SCHOOL                                         PTS
1.   Cal Baptist (No. 1                              68                
Alaska Anchorage (No. 4)                        84     
3.   Chico State (No. 5)                            105
4.   Simon Fraser (No. 9)                           127
5.   Cal St. San Marcos (No. 12)                    165
6.   Cal Poly Pomona (No. 22)                       189
7.   Academy of Art                                 252
8.   Western Washington                             257
9.   Humboldt State                                 292
10.  Point Loma                                     307
30   Teams

Men – 10K
#     NAME                                     TIME
6.    Edwin Kangogo                            30:11.5
29.   Nathan Kipchumba                         31:03.4
37.   Nickson Koech                            31:13.2
40.   Jorge Sanchez                            31:18.2
60.   Felix Kemboi                             31:44.6
92.   Kaleb Korta                              32:23.6
122.  Justin Carrancho                         32:55.7
188   Finishers

Top 10 Team Scores
#    SCHOOL                                         PTS
1.   Chico State (No. 4)                             55
2.   Cal Baptist (No. 6)                             84
3.   Western Oregon (No. 13)                        121
Simon Fraser (No. 22)                          121
Alaska Anchorage (No. 16)                      172
Academy of Art                                 174
Cal Poly Pomona (No. 9)                        178
Western Washington                             213  
Cal St. San Marcos                             235
UC San Diego                                   297
27   Teams