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Western cross country wins back-to-back GNAC Championships

Ella Edens awarded Freshman of the Year during the conference

Western Washington University’s men’s and women’s cross country teams pose after winning the GNAC Championship on Oct. 21, 2023, in Anchorage, Alaska. Western has won the GNAC Championship two years in a row. // Photo courtesy of Stephanie Burgoon/GNAC

Western Washington University’s cross-country team placed first in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championship on Oct. 21, 2023. The Vikings have won three of the four most recent GNAC championships, coming in as defending champions this year, favored to win.

The race took place in Anchorage, Alaska, in 30-degree temperatures.

Coming in first place was Western’s Kevin McDermott with a time of 24:43.5. It was not his best time of the season, but it was his best finish in regards to placing. He became the second Western men’s winner in the 22 years of the GNAC Cross Country Championships.

“Every day at practice, we are always pushing each other and always pulling for each other,” McDermott said.

McDermott has been running for Western for five years and said he loves the different team atmospheres that have been created throughout the years. He mentioned this year has a different feel because everyone wants the best for the team.

“Everybody’s focused on running for the team and doing what it takes to get us our big team goals,” McDermott said.

Getting the whole team as far as possible is a priority for the team. Not being focused on how far they can get individually but as a team instead.

Assistant Coach T.J. Garlatz has been helping coach Western’s track and field and cross country teams for the past seven seasons. 

Ella Edens was awarded Freshman of the Year as she crossed the finish line in Alaska. She didn’t know it at the time, but the first freshman to cross the line would receive that title.

“My coach showed me a picture about 10 minutes after the race, that they had posted Freshman of the Year,” Edens said. “It was super surprising but super cool.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams have been consistently placing in the top six teams after every event this year. Out of their six meets, they have a combined total of eight first-place finishes.

“We have a lot of depth and that has shown throughout the whole year,” Edens said. “Our top five never stay the same, it’s always switching.”

Edens was dealing with an injury the week before the race. She’s been taking it easy at practices knowing that she had to push for about 23 minutes during the race.

“It ended up being like tendinitis. It’s super inflamed and such a weird and random injury,” Edens said.

This injury took Edens out of the following regional championship, but she still traveled to regionals with the team. As a freshman, her outdoor season is cut short, but she will be back for the indoor season starting in January.

“She’s had a really good season and pushed through the injury when many people wouldn’t,” Garlatz said.

Though Edens couldn’t compete, the women’s cross-country team won the West Region championship on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. The men’s team placed fourth. Both teams will look to win the NCAA Championships on Saturday, Nov. 18 in Joplin, Missouri.

Madi Tessem

Madi Tessem is a sports reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a PR major and communications minor. In her free time she likes to read, watch sports and hangout with her cat. You can reach her at 

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