SFU's Willett winds way to cross country nationals

Simon Fraser University’s Olivia Willett finished Saturday’s NCAA Div. 2 West Regionals with a huge push, placing third and securing an automatic berth to the national championships.

The Coquitlam native completed the six-kilometre event in 20:51.6 minutes, just two seconds back of second-place Dania Holmberg of Seattle Pacific.

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It was the highlight of a chilly day at Monmouth, Oregon.

SFU’s cross country team’s men and women’s sides fell short of qualifying for a berth to the nationals.

The meet, held in Monmouth, Oregon, saw the SFU men place ninth overall in the 10km race against some of the top NCAA Div. 2 West Regional racers. The women finished 10th overall.

"Both teams ran really tough and we were against some of the best fields I have ever seen in the west region,” remarked SFU coach Brit Townsend. “Both teams came out slightly ahead of their ranking, and (Willett) earned herself a berth to nationals. The men's race was particularly fast this year with our top guy (Chris Sobczak, 30:50.6) finishing in 30th, just outside of all-region (top 25)."

Close behind Sobczak was senior Carlos Vargas (31:00.5) in 35th spot, while Aaron Ahl placed 39th (31:03.6). Finishing 105th overall was Burnaby South alum Ephrem Mekonnen (32:30.5).

For the women, Megan Roxby ran a time of 21:59.6 to finish 44th, while Mairin Shields-Brown placed 49th (22:03.0). Grace Chalk, at 67th (22:13.7), Callie Charlton in 80th (22:26.1) and New West runners Emily Chilton, in 93rd (22:34.3) and Claire Noort in 120th (22:58.6) rounded out the SFU results.

"It's been a building year for us with young talent on both the men's and women's side, and some of our middle distance runners stepping up to run 6km and 10km races. The experience they had this year will serve them well next year as they mature and get more background in the sport," said Townsend.

 Willett will prepare to be the lone representative at the NCAA Div. 2 championships Nov. 23 in Sacramento.

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