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Trio of Nanook women shine in Cross Country debuts

Published: Aug. 28, 2021 at 6:59 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - In a recent Great Northwest Athletic Conference preseason coaches poll, the University of Alaska Fairbanks women’s cross country running team was projected to place 9th out of 10 programs by season’s end.

The Nanooks had their first chance to hit the trails and potentially turn some heads in the conference on Saturday for the annual Blue and Gold meet on campus. To add to the competition, UAF welcomed the University of Alaska Anchorage’s men’s and women’s programs to blaze the rugged, historic trails.

A community race kicked off the first athletic event hosted on campus for the 2021-21 season, followed by the women’s, men’s and a 1-kilometer kids race.

The UAF women toed the line against the projected #3 Seawolves and the Nanooks had a good jump out of the gates. It was the UAF cross country running debut and first competition in two years for sophomore Kendall Kramer, who spent the 2020-21 athletic year with the Nordic ski program.

Kramer didn’t miss a beat, separating herself from the pack for the final kilometer and a half of the 5k course, taking victory in her first collegiate race with a time of 18:34.

“I have felt so in-shape running this year, it hasn’t felt so easy and I haven’t felt so fit ever before,” said Kramer, a three-time Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year in the sport at West Valley.

Freshman Rosie Fordham, of Sydney, Australia, kept pace with Kramer for most of the way, clocking in at 18:41 for second place. It was a clean sweep in the top three for the Nanooks, as fellow freshman and former West Valley standout Naomi Bailey checked in at 19:21 for third place at the 2021 season-opener.

“It was incredible, we knew they were fast, but we didn’t know exactly how fast they would be in comparison to the Seawolves, they always have a pretty strong team,” cross country running head coach Eliska Albrigtsen said.

Kramer (’20) and Bailey (’21) are responsible for the last four Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year Awards, the last four Alaska State Cross Country Division I Championships and the last four individual state championships in the 3200 and the 1600-meter events in track and field.

“It is extremely motivating, me and Naomi always worked really well together all throughout high school, we got faster every year because of each other, and we could not have done that with out each other,” added Kramer. “Now Rosie is in that group, Delainey [Zock] was right there as well, and we are not going to do anything but go up.”

UAA’s Nacy Jeptoo placed fourth overall, before a pair of Nanooks came rolling in with Delainey Zock (21:00) and Mariel Pulles (21:10) placing fifth and sixth respectively to round out the UAF runners.

The men took on a 7K course next, also facing the projected #3 Seawolves. UAA took the top two spots, with Cole Nash (22:53) and Galena’s Jacob Moos (23:06) placing first and second respectively. The top Nanook was freshman Joe Davies, who checked in at 23:23 for third, while junior Mike Ophoff followed behind at 23:34 for fourth. Zephan Ozturgut (8th, 25:13), Nolan Earnest (11th, 25:56) and Jack Cater (12th, 27:13) were all able to check off the first race of the season off their list.

“Our men’s team is quite close together and they’re really bonding,” said Albrigtsen. “They may not have that top speed yet, but they have potential for it and have been pushing themselves all together to get to the higher spots.”

These two programs will meet up again September 4, this time in Anchorage for the Seawolf Throwdown.

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