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Port Coquitlam runner leads SFU to conference cross-country championship

Port Coquitlam's Olivia Willett continues her run of success for the Simon Fraser University women's cross-country team.
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Port Coquitlam's Olivia Willett finished first at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference cross-country championships on Saturday

For the women’s cross-country team at Simon Fraser University, where there’s a Willett, there’s a way.

Port Coquitlam’s Olivia Willett won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference women’s cross-country championship Saturday at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Wash. Her performance also led Simon Fraser University to capture the women’s team title.

Willett, a senior, ran the six-kilometre course in 21:27.3, almost six seconds ahead of Rosie Fordham, a freshman out of Alaska Anchorage, who finished second.

“I knew that was going to be a big pack of girls up front who wanted that title bad,” said Willett, who tucked in behind her main competitors for most of the race, then made her winning move with about 1,000 metres to go. “I just tried to play it cool, stick with it and suss out what everyone was doing.”

Four of Willett’s teammates also finished in the top ten, to give SFU its first team title since 2014: freshman Kate Cameron placed sixth; senior Alison Andrews-Paul was seventh; junior Megan Roxby crossed the line in eighth and junior Emily Chilton was 10th.

Willett said the result is a testimony of the team’s group mentality.

“Going into every practice and every race we try to group together,” she said. “We work together as a team and try to treat every practice like we would a race.”

Willett and the rest of the SFU women’s team head next to the NCAA West Regional Championships, Nov. 6 at the Ash Creek Preserve in Western Oregon.

They’ll be joined by the men’s team, which also won its first GNAC men’s championship after placing three of its runners in the top ten.