The UAA cross country running team warms up before practice at the Dome in Anchorage. (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)For eight consecutive seasons, both the University of Alaska Anchorage’s men’s and women’s cross-country running teams qualified for the NCAA Division II National Championships. This year they even picked up two titles along the way at last weekend’s West Region Championships in Monmouth, Oregon.Download AudioUAA took the top two spots in both the men’s and women’s races. According to head cross-country coach Michael Friess, that accomplishment is very rare.“We’ve kind of checked back at little bit on records; we don’t know if that’s ever happened – or at least hasn’t happened in a long time – that one school has had the 1st and 2nd finishers in each of the races,” Friess said.Taking the top spot in the women’s race was UAA junior Joyce Chelimo, who is coming back after of a red-shirt season, where she took a season-long hiatus from collegiate competition.She says the year away from racing allowed her to come back this season stronger – both mentally and physically.“I am now more mentally prepared and I’m strong enough that I can handle the pain, than two years ago,” Chelimo said. “I think it comes with experience, and when I was sitting back and I wasn’t competing, I was looking back at myself, like, ‘What do I need to improve? What are competitors doing that I don’t do?’”Chelimo’s 20 minute 42 second time on the 6-kilometer course put her atop the leader board, followed about 17 seconds later by fellow UAA runner Caroline Kurgat.Coach Friess, who in the midst of his 26th season at the helm of the cross-country team, says the meet was a solid showing.“The main goal is to have both teams qualify for the National Championship and to try to then carry some momentum into a national meet,” Friess said.That goal was achieved.The men’s team qualified for nationals with the help of Henry Cheseto‘s second-straight, first place finish at the West Region meet. He says he’s happy he won the regional title again, but now he’s looking to improve his performance at the national meet.“If I took a look back to what I did last year, I was almost there,” Cheseto said. “Meaning I have today to sit there and make sure I will stay with the fast group.”Cheseto ran the 10-kilometer West Region course in 29 minutes and 29 seconds, followed by Dominik Notz – also of UAA – less than 3 seconds later.With 32 teams on the docket for the National Championships, Coach Friess says you can never tell how things will play out.“What every team hopes is that they just have their best race,” Cheseto said. “They can run up to their potential, not maybe something above what they’ve ever done before, but at least just run what they’ve been able to run.”“And I think if we can do that, then we’re gonna be pretty satisfied with our outcome.”The NCAA Division II Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Champions will be held November 21st in Joplin, Missouri at the Tom Rutledge Cross Country Course, hosted by Missouri Southern State University.