BILLINGS – Senior Garrett Love ended his career as the top finisher for the Montana State University Billings men’s cross country team on Saturday morning at Amend Park, crossing the finish line in 51st place at the NCAA Division II West Region Championships hosted by the Yellowjackets.
Love led the ‘Jackets, but Chico State stole the show with the top-three individual finishers, and easily claimed the team title with a stellar 45 points.
The event returned to Billings for the second time in three years, as the ‘Jackets also played host for the 2014 championships at the same facility. Saturday morning’s early frost was melted away as the sun ascended into a cloudless sky, setting a perfect stage for the 10k men’s race starting at 10 a.m.
“Garrett’s time was really fast, and the whole field today was really fast,” said MSUB head coach Dave Coppock. “He and Jorey did especially well, and they have been consistent all year.”
Chico’s William Reyes pulled away early and never looked back, breaking the course record with a time of 29:45.16 and a mile pace of 4:48. Teammates Kyle Medina and Falco Digiallonardo crossed the line in tandem behind the Wildcat senior, with the former taking second in 30:04.96 and the latter breaking the plane at 30:05.35.
Great Northwest Athletic Conference runners rounded out the top-5 at the event, with Edwin Kangogo of Alaska Anchorage taking fourth place in 30:07.58, and Isaac Derline of Western Washington in fifth place at 30:08.04.
For the Yellowjackets, who finished in 13th place as a team, Love finished with a time of 31:42.23 while running at a pace of a 5:07 mile. “This was my final race and I really wanted to go out on top,” said Love, the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day. “The race started out fast but that was expected, and I think we did pretty good as a team.”
Junior Jorey Egeland checked in at 60th place with a time of 31:57.47, and Tyus Mendoza finished in 87th at 32:41.48.
Junior Mark Hovland just missed a top-100 finish, as he ran a time of 32:58.86 and took 101st. Ivan Colmenero finished strongly down the finishing stretch, and posted a time of 33:06.18 for 106th place.
Also competing for the ‘Jackets were senior Josh Panasuk and freshman Ronald Venema. Panasuk crossed the finish line in 121st place with a time of 33:25.97, and Venema completed the field for the ‘Jackets in 131st place with a time of 33:48.49.
Finishing in second place as a team was Alaska Anchorage, which tallied 81 points and had three runners finish in the top-11. Cal Poly Pomona took third place with 90 points, the Academy of Art was in fourth with 156 points, and Cal Baptist rounded out the top-5 with 156 points. The Urban Knights won the tiebreaker over the Lancers, as their top-four runners all finished in the top-35.
Rio Frame led the MSUB women in her final collegiate race. Frame finished with a time of 24:36.46, and checked in 151st overall.
The fourth-year senior raced on her home course for the final time in her career, leading the team which finished in 29th place overall.
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, and this place has become my home,” Frame commented after the race. “I was just excited to be a Yellowjacket, and am excited to become a Yellowjacket alum after my track season. I can’t wait to see what the young team that we have can do when their careers keep going.”
“Rio went out and had a good race, and that was her fourth and final regional meet,” Coppock said. “I think she’ll go out saying she ran a hard race. Our women have a ways to go, and they’re still pretty young.”
“This meet is really exciting to host, and it is great to have all of the support from the community,” commented MSUB head coach Dave Coppock. “It has been a great experience, and I hope we get the bid again. I thought it went really smooth today, and the weather cooperated so that makes it fun.”
Senior Laura Aceves of Cal State San Bernardino held off the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Caroline Kurgat to take the individual title, as the former finished with a time of 20:55.95 with a 5:36 mile pace. Kurgat was less than four seconds behind at 20:59.01, and the duo crossed the line well ahead of third-place Shannon Porter of Saint Martin’s University (21:16.64).
Though Chico State University didn’t have a top-three finisher, the Wildcats had four runners place in the top-20 as they ran away with the team title and scored 70 points. Sadie Gastelum and Karlie Garcia finished fifth and sixth, respectively for the ‘Cats, and Alex Burkhart (16th) and Hannah Dorman (18th) were not far behind for the champions.
Redshirt freshman Nikki Aiken checked in with a time of 24:52.92, and finished in 160th place as the closest Yellowjacket behind Frame. Junior Bailey Bomar kept with Aiken’s pace throughout the 6k course, finishing in 167th place with a time of 25:04.28.
Freshman Lydia Foster led the lower pack of ‘Jackets, checking in with a 188th-place finish and a time of 25:48.30. Catrina Schuchard and Sarah Beatty crossed the line within two spots of one another, with the former taking 192nd place in 26:14.10 and the latter posting a 194th-place finish in 26:38.34.
Freshman Ella McKenzie completed the field for the ‘Jackets, finishing in 200th place with a time of 27:39.99.
Among the 30 teams that competed on Saturday, Simon Fraser University was the top finisher from the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, as the Clan took second place with a score of 103. The University of Alaska Anchorage was right behind in third place with 111 points, Point Loma Nazarene took fourth with 124 points, and Cal Poly Pomona finished in a distant fifth place with 164 points.
Saturday marked the second time that the regional championship event was held in Billings, as the Yellowjackets also played the host role during the fall of 2014. Frame was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day for MSUB.