The Great Northwest Athletic Conference men's and women's cross-country championship was held at Lake Padden in Bellingham this year, on Saturday, Oct. 24.
“It makes us feel at home, makes us feel like we have a little advantage, because it just feels nice to wake up in your own bed,” sophomore Sean Eustis said.
The first race started at 10 a.m. with the women’s teams from Alaska, Alaska Anchorage, Central Washington, Concordia, Montana State Billings, Northwest Nazarene, Saint Martin’s, Seattle Pacific, Simon Fraser, Western Oregon and Western.
Head coach Pee Wee Halsell felt it’s a lot of preparation to host the race, but nice to be at home and showcase Bellingham.
Junior Sara Taferre said she enjoyed running at Lake Padden.
“At first I was like, ‘Man, we don’t get to travel,’ but having so many fans is amazing,” she said.
Freshman Tracy Melville said she had made her goal of finishing the 6K in under 23 minutes, placing third for Western.
“It’s tough to mentally prepare for conference, but I think our team is prepared today and they’re ready to defend their home course,” junior Cory Johnson said.
The men’s goal is to pack up, but conference is also a time to see where the team stands and run a little differently, Johnson said.
“Individually, we have a couple guys that want to place in the top-ten.” Eustis said.
That was the goal for sophomore Andrew Wise, coming in first for Western men’s team and 10th overall in the 8K.
“I lead the first mile which was a mistake because I was hurting pretty bad in the middle, but mixing it up with some of the better guys of the nation felt cool,” Wise said.
There wasn’t a lot riding on this race — unlike the regionals in two weeks — so it was a time to experiment, to throw caution to the wind and go for it, Wise said.
Both teams met expectations and did well as groups, with the men coming in third and women in second, Halsell said.
In two weeks Western is headed to regionals in Monmouth, Oregon, where four teams will go onto nationals.
Editor’s note: Andrew Wise was previously a Western Front reporter.