SAINT LEO, Fla. – Four All-Americans piloted the nationally-ranked Alaska Anchorage cross country teams into the top eight at the NCAA Div. II Cross Country Championships on Saturday at the Abbey Course.
“Each of our four All-Americans ran with a good plan and were able to follow through,” head coach Michael Friess said. “I am extremely happy with the performance of both teams. Having both squads finish in the elite 8 of the nation is special.”
The No. 5 men’s team finished in the top five for the third time in program history with 222 points. UAA’s fifth-place finish only trails its third-place performances set in 2012 and 2015. UAA has now earned at least a top-8 result in seven consecutive national meets. The team gradually passed teams and grew stronger as the race progressed (9th-3K, 7th-5K, 6th-8K).
It was also a day of redemption for teams and individuals in each race. Adams State (54 pts) claimed its 12th national championship, after finishing runner-up a year ago, ahead of Grand Valley State (79 pts) and 2015 champion Colorado Mines (153 pts). West Region champion Chico State (4th) completed the top five with 166 points.
Missouri Southern’s Vincent Kiprop (29:07.4) defeated Shorter University’s Alfred Chelanga (29:36.3) for the individual title. Chelanga was the 2015 individual victor over Kiprop, while both runners were freshmen last season. A group of six runners asserted the pace early, but the race quickly turned into a battle for first and second. The 10K course featured a large gradual climb on three occasions. Kiprop used the climb the final time to put distance between himself and Chelanga for good.
Senior Michel Ramirez led the way for the Seawolves with a 13th-place finish in 30:41.7, becoming a two-time All-American. The Salinas, Calif., native was an All-American in 2014, after redshirting last season. Junior Edwin Kangogo of Eldoret, Kenya also became a two-time and back-to-back All-American by finishing in 34th (31:11.5). Both Ramirez and Kangogo traded places this season as UAA’s 1-2 runners.
“Michel being a podium finisher (top 15) and Kangogo running to another All-American finish was special,” Friess stated.
Junior Henry Cheseto (49th, 31:28.5), Salinas, Calif., Justin Carrancho (73rd, 31:54.1), and senior Victor Samoei (90th, 32:10.3) completed the scoring. Junior Nathan Kipchumba finished behind Samoei in 91st (32:10.8). Senior Michael Mendenhall (144th, 32:59.7) also competed for UAA amongst the 242 finishers.
On the women’s side, No. 10 UAA finished the national meet in eighth for the third straight season. It is the ninth consecutive time that the program has cracked the top 10 on the national level. Grand Valley State (116 pts) edged Adams State (139 pts) for its fifth national championship. Adams State won the title last season by defeating Grand Valley State. Western State placed 3rd (168 pts) ahead of West Region champion Chico State (4th, 189 pts). Simon Fraser – out of the GNAC – finished the day in sixth (210 pts).
GVSU’s Kendra Foley won her second national title with a 6K time of 20:01.8, making a new record at the NCAA Div. II meet in the process. Jessica Reeves (9th) lead the race early, but was eventually passed by a poised Foley. Runner-up Alexis Zeis of U-Mary crossed the line in 20:26.4, a year after defeating Foley by 0.3 seconds for the victory.
UAA’s Caroline Kurgat and Joyce Chelimo each placed in the top 10 for the second straight season. Kurgat – a two-time All-American - finished in 3rd (20:30.5), trailing only Susan Tanui’s runner-up performance from 2012. Chelimo became a three-time All-American (10th, 20:42.8), joining UAA’s Miriam Kipng’eno and Ruth Keino on the women’s team with three honors. In addition, Kurgat and Chelimo are also the only pair of Seawolves to make the top 10 twice in the same season. Henry Cheseto (3rd) and Dominik Notz (8th) accomplished the feat once in 2015 for the men.
“The women, at one point were not ranked, so to come back and finish eighth nationally is great,” said Friess, “Caroline and Joyce in the top 10 is amazing.”
Wasilla’s Mariah Burroughs (74th, 22:04.6), sophomore Zennah Jepchumba (101st, 22:21.9), and junior Tamara Perez (123rd, 22:33.5) contributed to the team’s final score. Soldotna’s Danielle McCormick (133rd, 22:41.9) and Anchorage’s Kaitlyn Maker (184th, 23:25.6) also represented the Green & Gold in the field of 240 finishers.
The weather was relatively mild for Florida with the temperature at race time approaching 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The races started at 8:30 a.m. EST and 9:45 a.m. to help with the conditions. The men’s and women’s cross country teams have qualified for the NCAA Championships 24 times, have produced 38 All-Americans and one national champion.
49 Henry Cheseto 31:28.5
73 Justin Carrancho 31:54.1
90 Victor Samoei 32:10.3
91 Nathan Kipchumba 32:10.8
144 Michael Mendenhall 32:59.7
3 Caroline Kurgat 20:30.5*
10 Joyce Chelimo 20:42.8*
74 Mariah Burroughs 22:04.6
101 Zennah Jepchumba 22:21.9
123 Tamara Perez 22:33.5
133 Danielle McCormick 22:41.9
184 Kaitlyn Maker 23:25.6