Party like its 1995: GU Women Win WCC Title

Oct. 31, 2015

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SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. -- For the first time in 20 years, and only the second time in program history, the Gonzaga University women's cross country team are the West Coast Conference Champions. The Zags' claimed the 2015 crown, led by a first place individual finish from Shelby Mills. The races were run at Plantes Ferry Park Saturday.

Gonzaga finished tied with BYU with 59 points, but the Bulldogs won the tiebreaker. The Cougars entered the race ranked 14th in the nation. Gonzaga was seventh in the latest West Regional poll. The Zags were picked fourth in the conference's preseason poll, while BYU was the favorite. Gonzaga placed fifth at the last two WCC Championships.

"This is amazing," GU women's Head Coach Patty Ley said. "They've just worked so incredibly hard for this. BYU, USF, LMU, and all the other teams came to compete. This was such a close meet. It's just an amazing group of young women all across the board. We're super-excited obviously with this, but we're honored to be in this group and conference right now."

Ley was named the 2015 West Coast Conference women's Cross Country Coach of the Year following the event. She becomes the first Zag to receive that honor since Kevin Swaim in 2000.

Mills became only the second GU runner to ever win a WCC cross country title. Cheska Fairbanks was the last in 1996. Mills led for the entirety of the race by a large margin. She created a gap from the 82-runner field and coasted to the title with a time of 20:55.7. The senior had an average mile of 5:36.6 and an average kilometer of 3:29.3. Loyola Marymount's Danielle Shanahan finished second at 21:06.4, a 10.7 second gap from Mills.

"There were scary moments when she got out so quick," Ley said. "But, she just kept rolling and had that look of determination on her face. It's been on her mind all season, and it was fantastic to see her win."

The Zags' Jessica Mildes placed third with a time of 21:10.4, while Jordan Thurston came in seventh at 21:20.4. Both were named All-WCC First Team after their performances. Mills received her second straight First Team recognition after placing seventh last year. Gonzaga had three top-10 finishers for the first time since 2000. Maggie Jones (22:05.2) and Amelia Evans (22:12.4) rounded out the GU scoring in 23rd and 25th.

"We just turned it on and kept rolling," Ley said. "Not everybody had their best race, but they never gave up on it. That was fantastic."

The Bulldog men placed third with 83 points. It was the lowest point total for Gonzaga since 2004's second place finish with 66 points. It was also the first time in nine years that the Zags have scored under 100. GU placed third at last year's championships as well.

BYU took the 2015 team title with 17 points. The No. 4 Cougars had seven runners in the top eight. BYU's Aaron Fletcher won the individual title with a time of 24:40.1. Portland placed second with 66 points. The Zags, ranked 12th in the region, finished ahead of the region's 10th ranked team, San Francisco, which had 116 points.

Troy Fraley was named All-WCC First Team with a ninth place finish. He crossed the line at 25:12.5. The junior's average mile was 5:04.3 and his average kilometer was 3:09.1. Matthew Crichlow finished 16th at 25:36.0. Vince Hamilton (25:40.9) and Kyle Branch (25:45.6) were 18th and 19th. Jack Pearce completed the GU scoring in 25th with a time of 26:01.6.

The Zags ran in front of a large contingent of Gonzaga fans Saturday. The championships were held in Spokane for the first time. It also marked only the second time the event was held outside of California. It was the first WCC Championship event GU has hosted since the 2006 basketball tournaments.

Gonzaga has a week off before the NCAA West Regionals on Nov. 13. The races return to the Jefferson Golf Course in Seattle, Wash., where the Zag women placed sixth at the Washington Invitational, while the GU men were ninth.



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