Lee launches to victory

SPU track competes in two high-level meets in sunny California

Isabella Tranello, Sports Editor

Kainoa Lee clears the bar during mens pole vault at the Bryan Clay Invite at Azusa Pacific. (Courtesy of Jacob Thompson, CWU Athletics)

The Seattle Pacific University track team traveled on Thursday, April 14 to Azusa, California to compete in the Mt. Sac Relays and the Bryan Clay Invitational.

While being in California meant warmer weather for the Falcons, it also meant that the level of competition increased. The Falcons competed against fellow Division II schools like Simon Fraser University and the University of Alaska Anchorage and even Division I schools, among these Division I schools were Colorado State University, University of Iowa and UC Davis. 

The week’s competition kicked off on Thursday, April 14, at the Bryan Clay Invitational when graduate-student distance runner Colin Boutin ran the men’s 10,000-meter race in the early hours of the morning. 

Boutin was unable to push himself to the front of the race as he placed 23rd, but he did cement himself in the SPU history books with his finishing time of 31:11.10. His time made him the second-fastest Falcon to ever run the men’s 10,000-meter race. This time was also a personal best for Boutin, as it dropped 49 seconds from his previous best of 32:00.18, which he set on March 26, 2021, in Tacoma, Washington at the Ed Boitano Invitational. 

Boutin had never finished this race below the 32-minute mark until this race. 

Colin Boutin finishes strong in the 5k at the Doris Heritage meet in March. (Rio Giancarlo)

On the same day, 13 hours later, sophomore distance runner Annika Esvelt competed at the Mt. Sac Relays in the women’s 10,000-meter run. Esvelt was personally invited to run at this competition and was the only Falcon at the meet, which was only 10 miles down the road from the rest of her team at the Bryan Clay Invitational. 

This was Esvelt’s first time running the 10,000-meter run on the track oval after only focusing on the 1500-meter, 3000-meter and 5000-meter runs up until this point. In this particular race, Esvelt raced in the Elite Division, where she was one of only three Division II athletes among the 20 finishers. 

She placed 12th overall and was the second Division II athlete to cross the finish line. 

Esvelt did not make it into the pool of top finishers, but she did come out with a place in the SPU record books. Esvelt is now the third-fastest Falcon to ever race in the women’s 10,000-meter run with a finishing time of 34:20.76. This time also gave Esvelt the sixth-fastest mark in GNAC history. 

Following Boutin and Esvelt’s performances on Thursday, the Falcons officially began the long day of races and events at the Bryan Clay Invitational on Friday, April 15. 

Unfortunately, the Falcons were not able to best the tough competition they faced and came up short in most events. 

However, sophomore pole vaulter Kainoa Lee clutched the Falcons’ only victory of the weekend in the men’s Open B Division pole vault. Lee finished the event with a height of 4.48 meters, which is his second-best mark of the season. It was only .04 meters shy of his personal best of 4.52 meters set on Saturday, April 9, at the Pacific Lutheran University Open. 

David Njeri sets up behind the blocks before the 1600m relay at the Doris Heritage track meet in March. (Rio Giancarlo)

This win was Lee’s second-consecutive win in the men’s pole vault, the first being at the PLU Open. 

Although senior pole vaulter Madison Licari did not win her event, she had a phenomenal showing in the women’s pole vault and took home second place when she vaulted over the 12ft bar. Before this meet, Licari had never been able to launch herself over the 12-foot-mark, but she did this time. 

Previously, Licari had only been able to push herself over the 11’10 ½ “ bar but has now set herself a new personal best at 3.66m, which is equal to the 12’0”.

The only other Falcon to place within the top ten of their events was junior sprinter and jumper David Njeri. He got eighth in the men’s triple jump with a distance of 14.92m and was the highest placing male Falcon besides Lee. 

The Falcons’ next meet will be on Saturday, April 23, in Ellensburg, Washington at the Wildcat Invitational.