MONMOUTH, Ore. — The Montana State University Billings’ men’s cross country team finished third at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships Saturday.
After being picked 10th in the GNAC Preseason Poll, the third place finish was a school-record finish at the GNAC Championships for the MSU Billings’ men. The Yellowjackets had an average time of 26 minutes over the 8,000-meter course. MSUB racked up 103 points, behind Alaska Anchorage and Western Washington, but ahead of the host-school, No. 20 Western Oregon. The MSU Billings’ men finished ahead of regionally-ranked No. 4 Western Oregon, No. 8 Seattle Pacific, and No. 10 Northwest Nazarene.
Clint Choquette was named the GNAC Newcomer of the Year after leading MSU Billings with a 14th place finish at 25:45.42. Choquette, a 2005 Butte High graduate, returned to college this semester.
Robert Peterson was right behind in 15th, with a time of 25:48.71. Peterson was named the GNAC Freshman of the Year following the race. Michael Luhr had a top 20 finish, coming in 18th at 25:51.21. Daniel Lombardi (26:12.53) and Tyson Vanderby (26:25.83) closed out the Yellowjackets’ scoring in 27th and 31st. Chase Robinson (26:27.62) and Taylor Canfield (26:50.15) came in 32nd and 45th.
Josh Panasuk, a 2012 Butte High grad, placed 48th at 26:51.
The MSUB men had the second biggest improvement in GNAC history. The Yellowjackets, who are not ranked in the regional poll, finished third, leaping six slots from their 2011 ninth place finish. Its previous best since joining the GNAC in 2007 was eighth in 2010.
Seattle Pacific’s men had the biggest improvement in conference history, winning the title in 2004 after finishing eighth in 2003.
“I’m just real proud of how we ran today,” MSUB women’s and men’s cross country head coach Dave Coppock said. “They just did everything I asked of them, and to accomplish what we have trained so hard for means a lot. We’re talking about four or five years of work to get here. We’ve come a long way. I think our depth really showed today. I knew with the kind of depth we had, we could do this.”
The Yellowjackets’ Whitney Mickelsen placed 11th in the women’s race, finishing just one spot away from All-Conference honors. Mickelsen helped the Yellowjackets finish in sixth as a team. The senior crossed the line of the 6,000-meter course with a new school record time of 21:31.34. She broke her own school record of 22:12.00 set last season.
MSUB had a team average of 22:37.52. Renae Hepfner (22:33.09) and Mary Owen (22:35.47) finished in 36th and 37th respectively for MSU Billings. The Yellowjacket women were picked eighth in the conference preseason poll.
“I’m real proud of how our women ran as well,” Coppock said. “All of our women’s runners finished with personal records. I would have loved to seen Whitney get All-Conference again, but a school record finish isn’t too bad either.”
Alaska Anchorage won the men’s conference title for the third straight time. The No. 8 Seawolves finished with 23 points, led by Micah Chelimo’s first place individual finish. Chelimo defended his conference title with a time of 24:49.53. It was his fourth top 10 All-Conference finish. Chelimo’s teammate, Alfred Kangogo, finished second in 24:57.93. It was also his fourth All-Conference award.
Western Washington placed second with runners coming in third and fourth. The No. 10 Vikings finished with 50 points.
Alaska Anchorage won the women’s team title for the fourth straight season. The No. 5 Seawolves eased past the field with a 16-point total. UAA swept the top-four spots of the race led by Susan Tanui’s first place finish. The junior remained unbeaten this season with a 20:37.29 finish.
Simon Fraser followed in second with 61 points, Seattle Pacific totaled 104 points in third, Western Washington had 115 and Central Washington finished with 151 in fourth and fifth places.
The Yellowjacket women and men head to the NCAA Div. II Western Regional Championships on Nov. 3. The championships are hosted by Hawaii Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. The men’s race will be a 10k, while the women will still run a 6k. The top five teams at the regional qualify for the NCAA Div. 2 National Championships in Joplin, Mo.
“This sets up real well for regionals,” Coppock said. “Everyone is real healthy for us, and we’re really just great heading into regionals. Our men are a better 10k team than 8k. I think we have true long distance runners. We’ll have to adjust training a bit, but were real excited.”
YELLOWJACKET GNAC CHAMPIONSHIP NOTES
* The MSUB men’s third place finish was highest in program history at the GNAC Championships.
* Clint Choquette named GNAC Newcomer of the Year.
* Robert Peterson named GNAC Freshman of the Year.
* Whitney Mickelsen beats her own school-record at 21:31.34.
* All of the MSUB women finished with personal records.
* The MSU Billings’ men were picked 10th in the conference preseason poll.
* The Yellowjacket men beat regionally-ranked No. 4 Western Oregon, No. 8 Seattle Pacific, and No. 10 Northwest Nazarene. WOU was ranked No. 20 in NCAA Div. II national poll.
— MSU-Billings Sports Information