Defending Champion Pixler, Adams State’s Martin Take Home D2 XC Regional Awards

By Keith Nunez, USTFCCCA

November 11, 2009   

NEW ORLEANS – Seattle Pacific’s Jessica Pixler and Adams State’s Damon Martin are among the 16 regional athletes and coaches of the year for NCAA Division II Women’s Cross Country as the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association announced the list of women’s regional award winners on Wednesday afternoon.

Headlining the athlete honorees, Pixler, the two-time defending NCAA champ, will seek her third-straight NCAA individual title when the 2009 NCAA Division II Cross Country National Championships get underway on November 21 on the campus of Southern Indiana.

On the coaching side, defending champion Adams State’s Martin headlines a list of talented regional honorees. His Grizzlies, winner of the last six NCAA Division II cross country national titles, have been impressive again in 2009 winning their third-straight Central Region title and eighth-straight Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) title. The Grizzlies are ranked fourth in the country heading into the national meet.

Of the eight regional athletes of the year, five of them are returning USTFCCCA All-Americans, led by Pixler. Last year’s runner-up Neely Spence of Shippensburg is the Atlantic Region Athlete of the Year, Morgan Place (7th in ’08) is the Central Region Athlete of the Year, Kimi Shank (9th in ’08) is the South Central Athlete of the Year, and Tina Muir (12th in ’08) is the Midwest Athlete of the Year.

For the coaches, Jerry Baltes (Midwest Region Coach of the Year) leads his Grand Valley State women’s team into the national meet ranked as the top squad in the country. Patty Vavra (South Central Region Coach of the Year) has her Missouri Southern State squad ranked No. 2, followed by Michael Friess’ (West Region Coach of the Year) Alaska Anchorage team at No. 3.

The 2009 Women’s NCAA Division II Cross Country Athletes and Coaches of the Year

Women’s Athlete of the Year

ATLANTIC – Neely Spence – Shippensburg
Spence, a sophomore from Shippensburg, Pa., won the Atlantic Region cross country individual title leading the Lady Raiders to their second-straight Atlantic Region team crown. Spence won the regional title by a margin of 26 seconds on the six-kilometer course. Spence was the PSAC Conference Champion this year, earning her second conference title in as many years as the Lady Raiders captured their second-straight PSAC team title.

CENTRAL – Morgan Place – Minnesota Duluth
Place, the Central Region individual champion, becomes only the third women’s cross country athlete in Minnesota Duluth history to represent the school at the NCAA Division II Cross Country National Championships. Her regional title was the first for the school in the women’s event since 1994. At the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Championships, Place finished first for the second consecutive year as she helped lead the team to a runner-up finish for the second-straight season.

EAST – Erin Carmone – Stonehill
Carmone, a freshman from Riverside, Rhode Island, captured her first East Regional title running the six-kilometer course at Franklin Park in 22:16.5. Carmone was the runner-up at the Northeast-10 Conference Championships as the Skyhawks claimed their eighth women’s conference title in school history.

MIDWEST – Christina Muir – Ferris State
Muir, a junior, was the individual champion at the Midwest Regional, winning the event in a time of 21.33.2. The victory represented her fifth individual title in as many races this season. Muir was also the top performer at the GLIAC Championships, winning the race with a time of 21:20.2 and helping the nationally-ranked Bulldog women to a runner-up finish. Muir was named the 2009 GLIAC Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Year.

SOUTH CENTRAL – Kimi Shank – Missouri Southern State
Shank, a senior from St. James, Mo., won her first South Central regional title as she led the Lions to their third-straight regional team title. Shank finished the six-kilometer course in a time of 20:59.05. Shank won her second-straight MIAA Championship as she finished the 6k course in a time of 21:01.07, the fastest 6k time ever run at an MIAA Championship.

SOUTH – Sara Trane – Florida Tech
Trane, a graduate student, became Florida Tech’s first-ever women’s individual regional champion in winning the South Regional cross country title. She won the race in 21:10.32, with a margin of 21 seconds over the rest of the field. With her victory, Trane qualified as an individual competitor in the 2009 NCAA Division II Cross Country National Championships and earned USTFCCCA South All-Region honors. At the Sunshine State Conference Championships, Trane finished as the top runner at the meet and was named the SSC Runner of the Year after posting five top-five finishes during the season, including three individual wins.

SOUTHEAST – Kate Griewisch – Lenior-Rhyne
Griewisch, the 2009 South Atlantic Conference Runner and Scholar-Athlete of the Year, won her first Southeast Regional title by seven seconds over her nearest competitor. The sophomore from Banner Elk, North Carolina qualified as an individual to the 2009 NCAA DIvision II Cross Country National Championships. Griewisch was the 2009 South Atlantic Conference individual champion.

WEST – Jessica Pixler – Seattle Pacific
Pixler, a senior from Sammamish, Wash., went out from the start and ran to her fourth-straight Division II West Regional title. She cruised over the six-kilometer course in a record time of 20:08.09, breaking her previous course record of 20:36.4. Pixler’s victory led SPU to a national-qualifying third-place finish in the team standings. Pixler finished a four-year career sweep of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference meet when the senior ran to a ten-second victory. Pixler’s title earned her another GNAC Athlete of the Year award for women’s cross country.

Women’s Coach of the Year

ATLANTIC – Steve Spence – Shippensburg
Spence helped lead the Lady Raiders to back-to-back Atlantic Region and PSAC Conference titles in 2009, earning back-to-back regional titles for only the second time in school history. His daughter, Neely Spence, was the top overall finisher in both the Atlantic Regional and PSAC Conference Championships. Both Neely Spence and teammate Mary Dell earned USTFCCCA Atlantic All-Region honors.

CENTRAL – Damon Martin – Adams State
Coach Damon Martin helped lead the Grizzlies to their third-straight Central Regional title. Adams placed three runners in the top five en route to a 52-point win for their seventh regional title in the last eight years. Martin’s Grizzlies also won this year’s RMAC Conference cross country title, extending their RMAC record of eight-straight conference titles. Martin was named the 2009 RMAC Women’s Coach of the Year.

EAST – Karen Boen – Stonehill
Under Boen’s tutelage, the Skyhawks have finished no worse than fifth as a team in all competitions this year, winning both the East Regional and Northeast-10 Cross Country Championships. The Northeast-10 Regional title was the eighth for the Skyhawks since 2000.

MIDWEST – Jerry Baltes – Grand Valley State
Baltes led the Lakers to their ninth-straight Midwest Regional title as all five runners finished in the top ten, earning USTFCCCA Midwest All-Region honors. The Lakers totaled a team score of 26 points, besting the runner-up by 50 points. GVSU also was victorious at the GLIAC Cross Country Championships claming its ninth-straight GLIAC team title. Baltes earned Coach of the Year honors in the GLIAC for his team’s efforts in 2009.

SOUTH CENTRAL – Patty Vavra – Missouri Southern State
Vavra’s Lions won their third-straight South Central Region title as the Lions scored South-Central Region-record 18 points. The Lions had six of their seven runners earn USTFCCCA South Central All-Region honors. Missouri Southern State also won its fourth-straight MIAA XC Championship scoring an MIAA-record 18 points. The teams finished helped earn Vavra her fifth MIAA Cross Country Women’s Coach of the Year honor.

SOUTH – Jarrett Slaven – Tampa
Jarrett Slaven led the Tampa women’s team to five first place finishes in 2009, including the Sunshine State Conference and NCAA Division II South Regional titles. The SSC Women’s Coach of the Year guided his squad to the program’s third-straight South Regional title while placing five runners in the top 10 at the event.

SOUTHEAST – J.D. Evilsizer – Columbus State
Evilsizer’s Cougars won their first-ever Southeast Regional title and will advance to the 2009 NCAA Division II Cross Country National Championships for the first time in program history. The Cougars scored a total of 68 points and won the team title by a margin of just one point. Earlier this season, the Cougars won their fifth-straight Peach Belt Conference cross country title.

WEST – Michael Friess – Alaska Anchorage
It was a year of firsts for the Alaska Anchorage women’s cross country team as the squad, led by coach Friess, won its first-ever West Regional title and also its first-ever women’s GNAC team title. At the Regional meet, UAA placed all five runners in the top 15, garnering USTFCCCA West All-Region honors, and scoring a program-best 35 points. At the GNAC meet, UAA had five runners finish in the top seven en route to a 25-point team total, the second lowest point total in GNAC women’s cross country history. The trip to the national meet will be the second-straight for the UAA women and fourth-overall.