Ava Earl

When it comes to cross-country running, Alaskans are known for their grit and willingness to adapt, setting their goals high each season.

On Friday, Girdwood’s Ava Earl and the Northwestern women made history, earning the team’s first NCAA Cross Country Championship berth in 20 years.

Earl, a South Anchorage grad, registered a 25th place at the Midwest Region Championships in a field of 230 competitors, earning All-Region honors. She was the fourth Wildcat to cross the line in the 6-kilometer race, stopping the clock at 20 minutes, 44 seconds – a sizzling pace of 5:33 per mile.

While the favorite to win the race, Oklahoma State, sealed the team title with 58 points, it was the team from Northwestern that achieved the runner-up position with 88 points — 11 ahead of Bradley University.

The Northwestern cross country team featuring Ava Earl of Girdwood (fourth from left).

In doing so, the Northwestern women entered rarefied air, qualifying for the national championships for just the third time as a team. The ‘Cats finished 30th in 2002 and 13th in 1985.

Joining Earl at the ‘big dance’ will be Anchorage’s Santiago Gomez-Prosser. The sophomore, formerly of Dimond High, placed 17th at the Mountain Region Championships, running 28:12 for 10 kilometers — a scorching pace of 4:33 per mile.

Gomez-Prosser was the fifth scorer for Northern Arizona, helping the Lumberjacks claim an 11-point victory over their annual rivals from Brigham Young University.

Northern Arizona runner Santiago Gomez-Prosser (273) of Anchorage.

In only his second 10K for the blue and gold, Gomez-Prosser improved drastically from his regional showing a year ago, taking off 3:20 from his time and moving up 41 places in the process, earning All-Region honors.

The Lumberjacks return as the defending national champions, making their 32nd team appearance and aiming to add to their collection of five national titles (2016-2018, 2020-2021).

The NCAA Championships are slated for November 19th in Stillwater, Oklahoma, with live streaming available at NCAA.com.


Other Alaskans at DI Regionals
  • Anchorage’s Blake Bennett placed 82nd (30:09) at the West Region Championships. The former ACS star finished as the second runner representing Grand Canyon.
  • West Anchorage’s Ethan Davis placed 123rd (32:53) at the Mid-Atlantic Region Championships, finishing as the fourth runner for Lehigh.
  • Daniel Abramowicz of Fairbanks placed 183rd (32:03) at the West Region Championship. The West Valley star finished as San Francisco’s fifth runner.
  • Claire Nelson of Eagle River placed 114th (23:20) at the Mountain Region Championships, crossing the line as the sixth runner for Nevada.
  • South Anchorage’s Lucy Young placed 119th (22:40) at the Southeast Region Championships, as the fourth runner for William & Mary.
  • Chugiak’s Breanna Day placed 221st (25:39) at the Southeast Region Championships, finishing as Murray State’s fifth runner.
  • Kodiak’s Trevor Dunbar, an assistant coach at Virginia, helped the UVA men clinch an auto-qualifier while the women earned an at-large bid (first time at nationals since 2015). The men finished 2nd at the Southeast Regional Championships to nab the second auto-qualifier spot behind North Carolina by scoring 83 points — five points ahead of Wake Forest. The women scored 109 points to place third behind NC State and North Carolina, earning the at-large bid after previously beating North Carolina head-to-head at the ACC Championships two weeks ago.

Kodiak’s Trevor Dunbar and the UVA men’s team.

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