Girdwood’s Ava Earl had one of the strongest races of her collegiate career at the NCAA DI Midwest Region Championships.
The Northwestern junior, who doubles as a singer-songwriter, covered the six-kilometer course in 20 minutes, 42 seconds — a sizzling pace of 5:33 per mile.
Earl’s eighth-place finish marked her highest placement outside of the regular season. The time was just shy of her personal best, which helped her secure the final auto-qualifying spot for the prestigious NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
Last fall, Earl was instrumental in helping Northwestern nab their first team berth in two decades. The South High grad rose to the occasion to finish in the top-25 as her team’s fourth scorer, before placing 195th at the national championships.
Since then, Earl has refined her skillset, becoming the third-quickest known performer in Alaska history in the mile (4:49.75), 3,000 (9:25.64) and 5,000 (16:19.34). She also set the program record in the indoor 800 (2:12.89), while her 5,000 ranks third in program history.
As this cross country season progressed, Earl found her groove, overcoming obstacles along the way.
The junior placed third at the Wisconsin Badger Classic, before facing stiff competition at the Virginia and Loyola Lakefront Invitationals. Even after a tough performance at the Big Ten Championships, Earl remained focused on the pursuit of excellence.
Not to mention she also released an 11-song album mid-season.
When regionals rolled around, Earl proved she was ready to compete as she toed the line at the former national championship course, beating All-Americans and qualifying individually by a mere 1.1 seconds.
The junior was the top finisher for the ‘Cats, leading her team to a third-place showing with 155 points, trailing Oklahoma State (30) and Iowa State (75).
The NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships will be held in Charlottesville, Virginia on Nov. 18.
Joining Earl at the ‘big dance’ will be Anchorage’s Santiago Gomez-Prosser.
The Northern Arizona junior is also primed to make his second showing after placing 15th at the Mountain Region Championships, covering the 10-kilometer course in 29:24 — a blistering pace of 4:43 per mile.
Gomez-Prosser, a former Dimond High standout, was the sixth runner across the line after the Lumberjacks scored a mere 36 points — the second-lowest winning team score in Mountain Region history. The team finished well ahead of BYU (89) and New Mexico (97).
The Lumberjacks will aim to defend their national title, after winning a staggering six of the past seven championships (2016-2018, 2020-2022).
Last fall, the Anchorage native was instrumental in the title defense, placing 19th to collect All-American honors as his team narrowly edged Oklahoma State in a rare tie-breaker.
Gomez-Prosser followed up the successful cross country season by lowering his marks on the track, moving up on the all-time lists among known Alaskan performers. He currently ranks fourth in the 3,000 (7:59.66), fifth for 5,000 (13:46.94) and sixth in the 10,000 (29:01.77), while also recording an altitude-converted mile of 4:00.68 (4:09.75 at 6,877 feet elevation).
The depth of Northern Arizona is evident, as the revolving line-up has proven undefeated this season, winning invitationals from coast to coast.
When Gomez-Prosser and the Lumberjacks line up on Saturday, they will undoubtedly be ready.
Kodiak’s Trevor Dunbar, an assistant coach for Virginia, will also be in attendance, as UVA will field two teams while also hosting the meet. The Hoos received at-large bids to the championships after facing a deep field at the Southeast Region Championships and recording strong performances throughout the season.
Speaking of championships, Carroll College’s Erika Arthur will be making her debut at the NAIA national championships after helping her team sweep the Frontier Conference titles.
Arthur, a former Soldotna High star, placed 13th covering the six-kilometer course in 24:37. The junior was the fifth scorer for the Saints, amassing 36 points — 11 ahead of Montana Tech.
The conference win marks the fourth-consecutive title for Carroll College, while Arthur recorded her highest conference finish after previously placing 16th (2022) and 31st (2021).
The NAIA Cross Country Championships will be held in Vancouver, Washington on Nov. 17.
A pair of Alaskans capped their seasons at the NWAC Championships, which consists of community colleges in the northwest region.
Haines’ Grace Long-Godinez, a freshman at Lane Community College, placed 24th covering the five-kilometer course in 22:06 to finish as her team’s third scorer. The Titans collected hardware after placing third, trailing only Spokane Community College and Clark College.
Sitka’s Hank Maxwell, a freshman at Southwestern Oregon Community College, placed 33rd covering the eight-kilometer course in 28:44 to finish as his team’s fifth scorer. The Lakers finished fourth overall.
Other Alaskans at Regionals:
- Juneau’s Sadie Tuckwood (Gonzaga), Fairbanks’ Daniel Abramowicz (San Francisco) and Sitka’s Dominic Baciocco (Santa Clara) competed at the West Region Championships. Tuckwood led the charge finishing 18th (20:01; 6K), while Abramowicz placed 132nd (31:50; 10K) and Baciocco finished 168th (32:59; 10K).
- Eagle River’s Claire Nelson placed 87th (21:42) at the Mountain Region Championships, finishing as Nevada’s second runner.
- Anchorage’s Lucy Young (William & Mary) and Eagle River’s Breanna Day (Murray State) competed at the Southeast Region Championships. Young finished 161st (22:51) while Day finished 205th (24:00).
- Fairbanks’ Shane Fisher placed 117th (32:56) at the South Central Region Championships, finishing as Little Rock’s sixth runner.
- Anchorage’s Kelsey Johannes (St. Scholastica) and Eagle River’s Kiki Sherman (Ripon) competed at the North Region Championships. Johannes placed 70th (23:38) while Sherman finished 125th (24:55).
- Juneau’s Anna Iverson (Pacific Lutheran) and Annika Schwartz (Whitman) competed at the East Region Championships. Iverson placed 63rd (24:19) while Schwartz finished 141st (27:05).
- Homer’s Seamus McDonough placed 80th at the East Region Championships. The Bowdoin freshman covered the eight-kilometer course in 26:51.