Pixler, Spences Receive Division II Cross Country Regional Honors

By Keith Nunez, USTFCCCA

November 18, 2008   

NEW ORLEANS – The defending national champion from Seattle Pacific and a father-daughter duo from Shippensburg are among those receiving NCAA Division II Regional Athlete and Coach of the Year honors for the 2008 season.

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association announced the regional award-winners today. The USTFCCCA names the Division II athletes and coaches of the year for eight regions across the country.

Seattle Pacific’s Jessica Pixler is the West Region Athlete of the Year. Pixler won her regional title in record-setting fashion earlier this month and looks ready to make a run for her second straight NCAA Division II title.

Each of the regional honorees will either be running or coaching at the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships, to be held Nov. 22 in Slippery Rock, Pa.

Included in this group are Neely Spence, the Atlantic Region champion from Shippensburg, and her coach/father, Steve Spence. The Raiders won their first conference and regional titles this fall with the Spences leading the way.

Damon Martin of top-ranked Adams State is the Central Region Women’s Coach of the Year. Martin’s Grizzlies have won five straight NCAA Division II women’s titles in cross country.

This year’s regional honorees for the 2008 season:


Women’s Athlete: Neely Spence, Shippensburg University
Spence shattered the course record by 26 seconds in claiming the Atlantic Region individual title by nearly one minute. Her earlier win at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference meet helped Shippensburg squeeze out a three-point team victory. Neely, a freshman from Shippensburg, is the daughter of Raiders coach Steve Spence.

Women’s Coach: Steve Spence, Shippensburg University
With his daughter, Neely, leading the way, the seventh-ranked Raiders brought Spence the first Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and Atlantic Region championships of his 11-year tenure. Spence, a Shippensburg graduate, was a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic marathon team and won a bronze medal at the 1991 World Championships.


Women’s Athlete: Shannon Payne, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs
After finishing second at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championships to Adams State’s Lavenna Mullenbach, Payne turned the tables on her RMAC rivals with an 11.6-second win at the Central Regional. Payne placed fourth in the 10,000 meters at last spring’s NCAA Outdoor Track Championships. She is a senior from Franktown, Colo.

Women’s Coach: Damon Martin, Adams State
Martin’s five-time defending champions are the top-ranked women’s team entering the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships. Adams State won its sixth straight Central Region title on Nov. 8, two weeks after claiming its seventh straight Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championship. Martin has won 13 NCAA women’s cross country titles at Adams State.


Women’s Athlete: Christina Dalomba, University of Massachusetts at Lowell
Dalomba ran her strongest race of the year at the East Regional, clocking 22:10 on the 6-kilometer course at Boston’s Franklin Park to win by 15 seconds. She placed second at the Northeast-10 Conference meet and placed 31st out of 301 runners at the New England Cross Country Championships. Dalomba is a senior from Marstons Mills, Mass.

Women’s Coach: Gary Gardner, University of Massachusetts at Lowell
After runner-up finishes in 2006 and 2007, Gardner’s River Hawks finished first in this fall’s East Regional. UMass-Lowell earlier won its second Northeast-10 Conference championship in four years. Gardner is in his seventh year as the cross country and track coach at Lowell.


Women’s Athlete: Rachelle Malette, Wayne State University
Malette successfully defended her Midwest Region title, winning by nearly 13 seconds. She won the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship by a similar margin. A senior from Windsor, Ontario, Malette finished fifth at last year’s NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships.

Women’s Coach: Jerry Baltes, Grand Valley State University
The Lakers placed seven runners in the top 10 in winning their eighth straight Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship and then put five runners in the top 10 in claiming an eighth consecutive Midwest Region title. Grand Valley State is ranked second nationally heading into the NCAA Championships. Baltes is in his ninth season as head coach.


Women’s Athlete: Jessica Forrester, University of Tampa
Forrester became the first Tampa runner, male or female, to win a regional individual championship. She claimed the South title by 36 seconds. Her season includes victories in the Sunshine State Conference and UT Early Bird Classic. Forrester is a junior from Brandon, Fla.

Women’s Coach: Jarrett Slaven, University of Tampa
Slaven’s ninth season at Tampa resulted in South Region and Sunshine Coast Conference championships. The women’s regional title was Slaven’s third in five years, and junior standout Jessica Forrester won the program’s first-ever regional individual crown. The eighth-ranked Spartans finished 10th at last year’s NCAA Cross Country Championships.


Women’s Athlete: Kimi Shank, Missouri Southern State University
Shank’s first conference title helped the Lions claim their third straight team championship at the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association meet. She placed second at the South Central Region Championships as Missouri Southern claimed its second straight women’s team title. Shank, a junior from Rolla, Mo., finished 22nd at last year’s NCAA Cross Country Championships.

Women’s Coach: Koby Styles, Midwestern State University
The Mustangs head to the NCAA Cross Country Championships with their highest national ranking in school history (16th). Midwestern State finished second at the South Central Regional and won the Lone Star Conference title. Now in his second season as Midwestern State’s head coach, Styles was a two-time All-America performer in cross country at East Central (Okla.) University.


Women’s Athlete: Allison Kreutzer, Clayton State University
Kruetzer’s victory at the Southeast Region Championships gave her a perfect 7-for-7 record in 2008 competition. The Peach Belt Conference champion missed last season with a foot injury but finished second at the 2004 NCAA meet as a freshman and was 10th in 2005. She is a senior from Lilburn, Ga.

Women’s Coach: Craig McPhail, Lees-McRae College
The Bobcats peaked perfectly at the Southeast Region Championships, racing to a 25-point win to bring McPhail his third regional title in 10 seasons as the cross country coach. Lees-McRae also won the Conference Carolinas championship in decisive fashion.


Women’s Athlete: Jessica Pixler, Seattle Pacific University
Pixler set a course record of 20:57.1 and finished more than 30 seconds ahead of the field in winning her second straight West Region title at UC San Diego. Pixler, the defending NCAA Division II cross country champion, finished sixth in a field of 278 runners at the 2008 Stanford Invitational and won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference by a large margin. She is a junior from Sammamish, Wash.

Women’s Coach: Gary Towne, California State University, Chico
The third-ranked Wildcats continued to dominate West Coast competition, winning their fourth regional title in six years and their fifth California Collegiate Athletic Association championship in seven years. Chico State will try to improve on last year’s fourth-place finish when they compete in the NCAA Championships on Nov. 22 in Slippery Rock, Pa. This is Towne’s 13th season as the head cross country coach at his alma mater.