Clan women capture West Region title; men qualify for first NCAA Division II national championship

November 24, 2014

Simon Fraser University cross-country teams both qualified for the NCAA Division II cross-country championships after the women took home their first West Region crown and the men’s team placed sixth on Nov. 22 at Amend Park in Billings, Montana.

Three weeks after collecting their first Great Northwest Athletic Conference women’s cross-country title, the Clan women did it again, this time winning the school’s first West Region crown.

“We are a young team, mainly track athletes gutting it out in cross-country, but this group has really come together when it matters,” says Clan coach Brit Townsend. “I’m really happy for them. They have earned everything they have achieved so far this year.”

The top six men's and women's teams earn trips to the NCAA national championship. It is the first time the Clan men have qualified for the national meet.

“We were all lying on the ground depressed and feeling sorry for ourselves because we didn’t think we qualified, but then we got the unofficial results, and everyone went crazy,” says Townsend. “We were jumping up and down and hugging each other. These guys have been so determined and so focused all year. They deserve to be going to nationals.”

SFU’s top runner on the men’s side, Oliver Jorgensen, has been battling pneumonia for two weeks but managed to compete. He was the Clan’s fourth place finisher, 48th in a time of 32:24.53 over the 10-kilometer men’s course. Marc-Antoine Rouleau was the top finisher for the Clan, posting a time of 31:49.65 for 26th place.

“Oliver couldn’t breathe midway through the race so we had to throw him an inhaler and he caught it mid-air,” says Townsend. “He just gutted it out every step of the way. They all did. They just had the mindset that they needed to beat anyone in front of them to make it possible.”

On the women’s side, Simon Fraser sophomore Rebecca Bassett finished third overall, nine seconds back of winner Katelyn Steen of Western Washington, who crossed the finish line in a time of 21:06.59, six seconds ahead of second-place finisher Caroline Barkechir of Cal Baptist. Bassett completed the six- kilometer course in 21:15.22.

With Bassett and Jennifer Johnson in the top-10, SFU finished with 103 points and a time of 1:50:17.67 capturing the team crown. Johnson, a grad student at the university, was eighth at 21:31.94.

“Rebecca came out aggressively and I think that gave her some confidence,” says Townsend. “She pushed for the win the whole way. She was so close. It was an amazing finish.”

The Clan will return to the NCAA Division II national meet, set for Dec. 6 at Tom Sawyer Park in Lousiville, Ky., after placing seventh as a team at last year’s nationals in Spokane, Wash.

All seven women runners for Simon Fraser finished in the top 75. Sophomore Peggy Noel was 20th place with a time of 22:06.43. Freshman Miryam Bassett finished 33rd with a mark of 22:32.82, sophomore Brittany Evans was in 44th with a time of 22:51.26, Emma Chadsey was 50th in 22:56.57 and junior Kansas MacKenzie was 74th in 23:22.13

University of Alaska Anchorage freshman Henry Cheseto ran away with the 10-kilometer title. Cheseto handily won the individual title in a time of 30:33.99, but the Chico State men’s team placed runners in positions four through eight, to collect the team title and a berth into the national meet. Chico finished first with 30 points and a time of 2:35:20.67 as a team.

The next closest team was Alaska Anchorage (2:36:00.17), finishing with 53 points.

Simon Fraser (2:41:48.30) also earned a berth to the national meet with a sixth-place finish and 225 points. The Clan had all seven runners finish in the top 100, with runners in the 40th, 42nd, 48th, 69th, 89th, and 99th spots.

Cal Poly Pomona Broncos (2:37:56.43) were the third-place team on the men’s side with 101 points. Finishing in fourth place as a team was Western Washington (2:39:41.90), which totalled 150 points. Cal Baptist (2:41:02.35) captured the No. 5 spot with 208 points.