Listed in first place at the Pacific Lutheran University Invitational, Seattle Pacific University’s men’s and women’s cross country teams both had at least one runner in the top three of their respective events.
Kaylee Mitchell and Kate Lilly finished in first and second place, respectively, in the women’s race with Mitchell completing the six-kilometer course in 21 minutes and 4 seconds. The win earned her the GNAC Women’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week Award. Lilly finished 28 seconds later at 21:32.
Three other Falcon runners finished in the top ten: Dania Holmberg in fifth, Kelsey Washenberger in ninth and Katherine Walter in tenth. Elizabeth Thompson finished in fourteenth and Sedona McNerney finished in 17th.
“As for the women, the meet served as a reminder that competition is going to require our very best throughout the entire team. We had a decent day on Saturday, but I think that our team’s consensus is that we have more to give. We have a great team this year and the ladies seem determined to take advantage of each competitive opportunity going forward,” said Assistant Coach Chris Reed.
For this meet, team scoring was generated by adding up the positions in which the top five finishers on each team finished. Since SPU had five finishers in the top ten, those scores added up to a point total of 24, 40 points lower than the second-place team.
On the men’s side, Colby Otero led the Falcons with a third-place finish at 25:47 in the men’s eight-kilometer race. Colin Boutin and Jared Putney also finished in the top ten with fifth and seventh place finishes, respectively.
As for other returners to the Falcons, Elius Graff finished 12th, Shad Galloway finished 28th and Brayden Schultz finished 47th. Making their collegiate debuts for the Falcons were Sheamus Mahoney, finishing 13th, Jacob Allmaras, finishing 41st, and Bailey Rockholt, finishing 64th. The Falcons top five finishers kept them at 40 points, giving them the victory by 31 points.
For the women’s team, the Falcons are projected to finish the season on top, according to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference preseason coaches’ poll, but the first-place spot is still up for debate.
While SPU received five first-place votes, the four-time defending champion, Alaska Anchorage, also received four first-place votes and Simon Fraser University received two.
The Falcons are ranked in the top ten nationally in many different collegiate cross country polls and will be relying on all runners to have good results at each meet so they can push themselves to win the GNAC Championship and do well individually at the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships.
“Kaylee Mitchell, Kate Lilly, and Dania Holmberg are among the best runners in all of NCAA DII and it’s such a plus to have them leading the way for us,” said Reed. “We have a good supporting pack, too. They are all accomplished runners and if they can continue to race with heart and toughness, this team can run with nearly anyone in the country.”
In the same GNAC coaches’ poll, the men’s team is projected to finish sixth in the conference.
The team has a good balance of returners to lead the team with three juniors, two sophomores, a redshirt freshman and five true freshmen.
“The men have a stronger scoring group than we have had in a long time and it will be exciting to see them flourish,” said Reed.
“Colby Otero looks to have entered new territory competitively. Colin Boutin has never started a season so well and he’s such a stalwart competitor in Championship settings. Jared Putney has such a great energy about him and we are much better with him than without him. Elius Graff has worked very hard. He is fit and serves as a leader of the entire team. Sheamus Mahoney is only a freshman, but he sure doesn’t act like it when it comes to practice and racing. He’s tough.”
The men will get a week off from competition while the women head down to Sacramento, California to compete in the Capital Cross Challenge on Sept. 28 at Arcade Creek Cross Country Course.
The women will then take a break while the men head back to Tacoma, this time competing at Chambers Bay Regional Park in the John Payne/Curtis Invitational Oct. 5. After this, both teams will return to competition Oct. 12 at the Western Washington Classic at Sudden Valley Golf Course in Bellingham, Washington.