Whether it be on skis or the trails, Fairbanks’ Kendall Kramer has perfected her performance on the sport’s greatest stages.
Ten months after earning All-American honors in cross-country skiing, the former West Valley High star today collected All-America honors as a runner at the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships in University Place, Washington.
With her eighth-place finish, the junior not only rewrote the record books for UAF but completely obliterated the previous best for a Nanook by a whopping 53 places.
Kramer ran a strategic race, meticulously finding her way into the chase pack, coming through the first mile in 21st place. She moved up seven spots by the second mile and continued to progress at every checkpoint from then on. At the five-kilometer mark, Kramer was in 11th place and had a strong final kilometer to pass three more runners to eventually finish eighth out of 262 runners.
“It was a comfortable race that I felt really rested and ready going into,” said Kramer. “Being in such a fast and large group in the race helped me move my legs fast without even realizing it or straining, I just got lifted and carried by the group.”
She covered the 6-kilometer race in a time of 20 minutes, 52 seconds — a pace of 5:35 per mile. This was the third consecutive race she dipped under the 21-minute barrier, bettering her previous best on the course by 11 seconds.
— GNAC Sports (@GNACsports) December 2, 2022
Throughout the race, Kramer felt the support of her teammates, along with those who gathered to watch the race at UAF’s Patty Center.
“I really appreciate the watch party that the Fairbanks community put on for us,” said Kramer. “It made us feel so loved and supported.”
Compared to her national debut last fall, Kramer improved by a staggering 64 places, ending the season as the top GNAC and West Regional finisher. She also added to her All-American collection.
The resurgence of the Nanooks has come in part from the trio of talent, two of which hail from the Great North. In just two seasons, UAF went from placing toward the bottom of the conference to qualifying three individuals for back-to-back national championships.
Teammate Rosie Fordham, who now holds the former school-best, moved up 18 places from last fall to finish in 43rd — just three spots outside of claiming All-American status. Before Fordham’s and Kramer’s ground-breaking performances, the previous best by a Nanook was Crystal Pitney’s 62nd showing in 2011.
Fordham, a sophomore from Australia, defended her position throughout the race, shifting by one to two places after each checkpoint. She finished in a time of 21:27, bettering her course best by 13 seconds.
Fellow sophomore Naomi Bailey — a pre-race favorite and West Region champion — got out to a quick start, hanging just behind the leaders and finding herself in fifth place after the first mile. But by the two-mile mark, Bailey had faded back, struggling to maintain her position as she experienced an untimely side cramp. She was able to rebound slightly, bettering two-thirds of the field to finish in 21:57 for 90th place.
While the performance may have been disappointing for Bailey, she still managed to improve on her 174th-place showing one year ago, moving up 84 positions.
The women’s race was won by Adam’s State Stephanie Cotter, who collected her second national title in a blistering time of 19:45 — 42 seconds ahead of second place. Cotter becomes the ninth double-winner in Division II history, adding to her title from 2019, while also leading Adams State to its 20th national team title. The Grizzlies scored 75 points — 51 points ahead of Grand Valley State.
#GNACXC | Top-10 finishes for Coleman Nash of @UAASeawolves and Kendall Kramer of @AlaskaNanooks lead the conference at the #D2XC Championships. The two, along with Charlie Dannatt of @sfu_athletics, earned All-American honors.https://t.co/iUIZI0tvIg pic.twitter.com/96FDVfYUsW
— GNAC Sports (@GNACsports) December 2, 2022
On the men’s side, UAA had a pair of athletes qualify for the national championships.
Making his second appearance, sophomore Cole Nash dialed into the race on a course he has twice raced on. While the national course was two kilometers longer than the pre-nationals race held earlier this season, he showed no signs of fatigue as he tracked down competitors with each kilometer.
Originally from Littleton, Colorado, Nash’s position was strategic, sticking on the outside of the chase pack, and keeping an eye on the early race leaders.
After the first kilometer, he cracked the top-20, moving up a few positions to 15th by the third kilometer. Midway through the fifth kilometer, Nash found himself in ninth place and continued to jockey with competitors until the end. He outleaned two runners at the finish line to secure a sixth-place finish out of 257 runners.
In doing so, Nash collected his second All-American honor in cross country, and third including his All-American honor from track and field. The sophomore covered the 10-kilometer course in 29:57 — a pace of 4:49 per mile and a personal best for cross country.
Nash becomes the first Seawolf to reach the top-10 since Wesley Kirui’s ninth-place showing in 2018, and the highest finish since Henry Cheseto’s third-place finish in 2015. Besides Cheseto, the only person to place higher on the men’s side for UAA is Micah Chelimo, who won the race in 2012.
Joining Nash on the national stage was newcomer Michael Zapherson, a junior transfer from UNC-Greensboro. The North Carolinian received an at-large bid to the championships and made the best of his inaugural invite, placing 55th in 30:47.
Colorado School of Mines’ Dillon Powell capped an undefeated season, winning the men’s race in 29:28 — 19 seconds ahead of second place. He led the Orediggers to their third national title, scoring 43 points — 134 points ahead of Wingate.