Falcons sprint into spring

Rowing comes up short in second regatta of season

Isabella Tranello, Sports Editor

Seattle Pacific track and field team members competing in the annual Doris Heritage Track Festival on March 19th that SPU hosts at the West Seattle Stadium. (Rio Giancarlo)


Spring has officially sprung and unlike the cherry blossom trees that have just rebloomed, the men’s and women’s track teams never left. They have been training and competing throughout spring break. The Falcons participated in not one, but two track meets over break and secured several wins for SPU. 

The first meet the Falcons attended occurred on Saturday, March 19. SPU hosted their annual Doris Heritage Track Festival at the West Seattle Stadium, which honors Falcon Hall of Famer, former SPU coach and olympian Doris Brown Heritage. This was only the Falcons’ second outdoor meet of the season. 

At this honorable event, the Falcons won six different events. SPU athletes were prepared to put their hearts into their respective events, and they did it gracefully.

Junior track athlete David Njeri stepped away from the long and triple jump events at this meet and instead entered an event he has never run before. Although Njeri was out of his comfort zone, the risk paid off and Njeri finished the men’s 200-meter dash in first place with a race time of 22.23 seconds. 

Fellow jumper and sprinter sophomore Jeff Gordon followed in Njeri’s footsteps and brought home a first-place win of his own in the men’s 100-meter dash. Gordon finished the race in 11.12 seconds. 

On the women’s team, sophomore distance runner Annika Esvelt made her outdoor debut and ran in the women’s 1500-meter run. She narrowly won the event with a time of 4:44.80 after she and the second place winner from the University of Alaska Anchorage, senior Nancy Jeptoo, battled back and forth for first for most of the race. 

Senior jumper and sprinter Peace Igbonagwam won two events over the weekend. Her first win was captured in the women’s 200-meter dash after she clocked a time of 56.94 seconds. This was a new personal best for Igbonagwam and the first time she has completed the race in under 57 seconds. 

The second race in which Igbonagwam came out victorious was the women’s 4×400 relay race. She competed alongside senior sprinter Jenna Bouyer, senior sprinter Vanessa Aniteye and freshman sprinter Johanna Brown. The four women won the race as a team with a finishing time of 4:00.92. 

SPU relay race member and recent transfer-athlete Aniteye was the last Falcon to win an event as she competed in the women’s 800-meter race. She won the race with a time of 2:11.16. 

The Falcons’ second track meet of spring break took place at the Peyton-Shotwell Invitational in Tacoma, Washington on Saturday, March 26. 

The SPU women’s team entered seven events and won every single one. The men’s team did not win every event that they ran, but they brought home five additional wins for the Falcons. SPU ended the meet with 12 wins and almost completely swept away the competition. 

In the women’s 200-meter dash, Bouyer captured first place with a time of 24.68 seconds. She was closely followed by fellow Falcon Igbonagwam who placed second with a time of 24.68. The men’s 200-meter dash was also won by the Falcons as Njeri and Gordon went toe-to-toe, almost matching pace with each other for the whole race. In the end, Gordon beat Njeri by one millisecond with a time of 22.13. 

The celebrations for the women’s team continued as Esvelt recorded her second win of the season in the 1500-meter race with a time of 4:39.08. This was Esvelt’s first time finishing the race under the 4:40 mark. 

The women also won big in the women’s 400-meter dash as Brown finished the race in 1:01.80. This was Brown’s first-ever collegiate individual win. The Falcons also won the men’s 400-meter dash when sophomore sprinter Evan Carpenter crossed the finish line with a clocked time of 50.82 seconds. This was his first time finishing with a time in the 50-second range. 

SPU was also victorious in both the men’s and women’s 4×400 relay races. The women’s race was won in 3:49.64 by the team of Igbonagwam, Bouyer, sophomore distance runner Ellie Rising and Aniteye. 

The team of Igbonagwam, Aniteye, Bouyer and sophomore sprinter Aniya Green also won the women’s 4×100 relay race in 47 seconds. 

Sophomore Evan Carpenter running the men’s 4×400 relay at the Peyton-Shotwell Invitational in Tacoma on March 26th. (Marissa Lordahl)

The men’s victory was achieved with a winning time of 3:26.32 by the team of Carpenter, Njeri, Gordon and Freshman sprinter Isaiah Archer. In addition to that win, Archer, who was a member of the men’s 4×400 relay team, won an individual event during the meet. He competed in the men’s 800-meter race and clocked a finishing time of 1:55.61. 

The Falcons also took home victories in the men’s and women’s 400-meter hurdles. The men’s race was won by sophomore sprinter Julius Shepherd in 56.96 seconds, and the women’s race was won by redshirt freshman McKenzie Fletcher with a time of 1:07.79. 

The final event in which the Falcons took home the victory was the women’s pole vault. Senior Madison Licari won first place with a height of 3.48 meters. Two other Falcons placed within the top three of this event. Sophomore Lizzy Daugherty placed second (3.18m) and freshman Charlie Hill placed third (3.18m). 

The Falcons’ next meet will take place on Friday, April 1, at the West Coast Relays in Clovis, California. 


The SPU rowing team made the nearly 2,000 mile trip to Oklahoma River, Oklahoma with their boats in tow as they prepared to compete in their second regatta of the spring season on Saturday, March 26. 

The Falcons competed against the University of Central Oklahoma and the University of Kansas. Central Oklahoma is the defending three-time national Division II rowing champion and Kansas is a Division I university. 

SPU had a great challenge ahead of them as they faced off against these powerhouse schools. Unfortunately, the Falcons were unable to best the top teams and lost nearly every race on the clear water. The only race won by the Falcons was the second session of the Novice 500-meter race. SPU clocked a winning time of 1:51.48. 

In the first session of the Varsity Eight, SPU placed fourth and finished with a time of 7:05.63, which was only 17 seconds off of the winning time from Kansas. Kansas has two boats entered in the Varsity 8 and took both first and second place. 

The Kansas Jayhawks did not compete in the second session of the Varsity Eight, which allowed SPU to take second place against Central Oklahoma. The Falcons were only 8 seconds off of Central Oklahoma’s time of 6:56.45. 

The Falcons’ luck was unchanged in the Varsity Fours. The Falcons were unable to come out with the win in either of the two sessions, but they were able to beat out Central Oklahoma and Kansas’ B team to take second place with a time of 7:48.77. 

Although the Falcons did not have a great showing over the weekend, one Falcon showed her flexibility and ability to adapt. Junior first-year rower Jessica Vester was spotted on the water in five different races. Vester directed SPU’s boats in the first and second sessions of the open four races, served as coxswain in the final of the Varsity 8 races and sat in the No. 3 position for both of the Novice 500-meter races.

The SPU rowing teams’ next regatta will be on Friday, April 1, at the Florida Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta in Sarasota, Florida. They will also compete on Saturday, April 2, in the Husky Open hosted by the University of Washington in the Montlake Cut.