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College Cross Country: Merchant triumphs, Gomez-Prosser takes runner-up, Prussian and McDonough impress; UAF, UAA split wins

by | Sep 13, 2023 | Cover Story, Cross Country Running, Running

Tristian Merchant

In the first meets of the season, Tristian Merchant and Santiago Gomez-Prosser picked up where they left off, while Anna Prussian and Seamus McDonough had stellar collegiate debuts.

Merchant, a redshirt sophomore at Liberty, began his season at the Eye Opener XC Festival in Spartanburg, S.C.

The former ACS star had all eyes as he navigated the 8-kilometer course, marking his first cross country race for the Flames since transferring to Liberty last fall.

Merchant gradually pulled away from the 170-person field to earn his first collegiate win on the grass in 24 minutes, 20 seconds — a brisk pace of 4:53 per mile and 2.9 seconds ahead of the runner-up.

The momentum continued as Merchant went on to lead the Flames to the men’s team title with 25 points — 15 ahead of Furman — and was named Liberty’s first CUSA athlete of the week, since moving on from the ASUN Conference.

Anchorage’s Santiago Gomez-Prosser returned to form at the George Kyte Classic in Flagstaff, Ariz.

The Northern Arizona junior had a stellar showing placing runner-up behind teammate Drew Bosley in the 4.5-mile race, held at 7,000 feet elevation. Gomez-Prosser, a Dimond High standout, stopped the clock at 21:47, a scorching pace of 4:50 per mile, which ranks him second-quickest in Buffalo Park course history since 2006.

Santiago Gomez-Prosser

By placing five runners in the top six, the Lumberjacks ran away with the team title, gapping Arizona by 36 points.

Gomez-Prosser is coming back after a strong cross country season last fall, which saw him earn All-American honors placing 19th at NCAAs and helping NAU secure their sixth national title in seven years.

In the Pacific Northwest, a quintet of athletes competed in the Puget Sound Invitational, led by Palmer’s Sophie Wright.

Wright, a junior at Western Washington, covered the 5-kilometer course in 18:07 — a sizzling pace of 5:50 per mile — taking runner-up behind teammate Ashley Reeck.

The Vikings annihilated the competition, sweeping the top 14 spots and finishing 44 points ahead of Seattle Pacific.

Speaking of SPU, Sitka’s Anna Prussian made her collegiate debut for the Falcons, placing 17th in 19:30 and leading her team to finish runner-up.

The three-time state champion overcame the heat and stiff competition to shine in her new uniform.

“Anna had a great showing for her first college race, leading the team and mixing it up with some good runners, and she held her own really well,” coach Eric Hansen said in a press release.

Prussian joins the talented squad after the departure of Eagle River’s Vanessa Aniteye, who won the NCAA Division II indoor national title in the 800 meters. But she won’t be the team’s only Alaskan, as Soldotna’s Allie Ostrander enters her fourth season as assistant coach.

Former Sitka teammate Silas Demmert also joins Prussian in the maroon and white, after finishing as the fifth Falcon on the men’s side. The Seattle Pacific freshman stopped the clock at 16:27 to place 43rd overall.

Also at the Puget Sound Invitational were Juneau’s Anna Iverson and Anchorage’s Alana Lim.

Iverson, a junior at Pacific Lutheran, led the Lutes with a 24th-place finish in 20:51, while Lim, a Puget Sound freshman, placed 28th in 21:04, finishing as the Loggers’ second runner.

Seamus McDonough

In the northeasternmost U.S. state, Homer’s Seamus McDonough made his collegiate debut at the CBB Wave Races.

The Bowdoin freshman and two-time track state champion delivered with a third-place finish. McDonough covered the 3.8-mile course in 19:57, finishing behind a pair of teammates to help the Polar Bears to a perfect score — 34 points ahead of Bates — sweeping the top six spots.

A trio of Alaskans competed at the University of San Francisco Invite.

Eagle River’s Claire Nelson led the contingent with a 19th-place showing. The Nevada junior covered the 6-kilometer course in 21:32, crossing the line as the leader of the Wolf Pack.

Sitka’s Dominic Baciocco and Fairbanks’ Daniel Abramowicz finished just three seconds apart at the 8-kilometer distance. Baciocco, a Santa Clara junior, placed 30th in 25:05 to finish as the Bronco’s first runner, while Abramowicz, a San Francisco sophomore, placed 34th in 25:08, helping the Dons to a third-place finish.

Lastly, UAF faced UAA for their second head-to-head matchup at the Nanook Frontier Clash.

Fairbanks’ Kendall Kramer and Naomi Bailey.

Fairbanks’ Kendall Kramer and Naomi Bailey led the way on the undulating 6-kilometer course. The pair finished in nearly identical times, with Kramer taking top honors in 22:32 while Bailey finished one second back.

Anchorage’s Delainey Zock rounded out the top three in 23:46, helping the ‘Nooks to victory with 16 points.

Soldotna’s Jordan Strausbaugh led the Seawolves with a fifth-place finish in 24:29, followed by Palmer’s Sofija Spaić in seventh (25:26) and Haines’ Avery Williamson in ninth (26:02).

UAA’s John Peckham of Oregon led the Seawolves, placing five men in the top six to secure their second win over the in-state rival with 17 points.

Anchorage’s Ty Elliott was the top Alaskan finisher for the Green and Gold, placing fifth (26:47) on the 8-kilometer course, while Juneau’s Finn Morley of UAF took seventh (26:52).

Other notable cross country performance from Alaskans:

  • Anchorage’s Kaleb Beloy placed fourth at the UCCS Rust Buster. The CSU-Pueblo junior covered the 8-kilometer course in 25:38, leading the Thunderwolves to a third-place finish.
  • Soldotna’s Erika Arthur placed tenth at the Providence Open. The Carroll (Mont.) junior covered the 6-kilometer course in 24:06, helping the Fighting Saints secure the team title over Rocky Mountain by one point.
  • Fairbanks’ Shane Fisher made his collegiate debut at the UCA Bear Invitational. The Little Rock freshman covered the 3-mile course in 15:29 to place 16th.
  • Anchorage’s Lucy Young placed 21st at the Spider Alumni Open. The William & Mary junior covered the 4-kilometer course in 14:28, helping the Griffins place runner-up.
  • Eagle River’s Breanna Day placed 37th at the Belmont Opener. The Murray State senior covered the 5-kilometer course in 19:24, helping the Racers to a fourth-place finish.

Story made possible by:

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Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Alaska Airlines | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Joe Alston | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Aspen Endodontics | Glen Bailey | Kathie Bethard | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Continental Auto Group | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris | The Conway Family | Donley Family | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Foley & Pearson | JL Properties | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Amy and Jason Miller | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | Rick Mystrom | Kathleen Navarre | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Dave and DeAnne Rand | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Replacement Glass | Residential Mortgage | RSA Engineering- Sarah & A.J. Schirack | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Peter Pounds | Dan Rufner | Harlow Robinson | Pete Robinson | Moria Smith | Taylored Restoration | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Team Heat | Todd Whited | UAA Seawolves | Don Winchester

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Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose's Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie - Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited | Moria Smith | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Peter Pounds | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | RSA Engineering

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