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The Falcon

Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Falcons fly fast in first three meets

SPU cross country teams off to hot start
Annika Esvelt (416) races for position at the start of the PLU Invitational Race in Tacoma, Wash., on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.r (Rio Giancarlo)

Falcon runners have done well during the first three meets of the cross-country season, with several runners finishing near the top of the individual standings over the past few weeks. 

One key runner is senior human biology major Annika Esvelt. In the previous two meets, Esvelt finished ninth and second among the women competing and fifth and first among women in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference overall.

Another is freshman ecology major Silas Demmert, who has put up surprising numbers for his age, finishing forty-third, thirty-first and forty-eighth overall in the three meets: fifth, third and second among SPU men.

Brennan LeBlanc, a senior computer science major on the team, also returned to form, placing eleventh, fifteenth and thirty-eighth in the three races the Seattle Pacific University team has been to, and has been first among SPU’s men every time.

For her first-place GNAC performance at the Pacific Lutheran Invitational, Esvelt received GNAC Women’s Runner of the Week, an award she was not expecting.

“I first found out because my roommate texted me to congratulate me, and then I was like, ‘Oh, I didn’t even know I got that!’ and then I looked at my emails,” Esvelt said. 

Seattle Pacific University cross country coach Eric Hansen lauded Esvelt as one of the runners he has high hopes for.

Matise Mulch (419) makes her way past a Whitworth runner at the PLU Invitational in Tacoma, Wash., on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.r (Rio Giancarlo)

“She’s obviously one of the better runners in the conference and the region. Our hope is she’ll be able to qualify for the national championships in a few weeks here,” Hansen noted.

Esvelt stated that she holds that goal as well, but she also emphasized her drive to get in the right mindset to compete.

“I want to mentally believe that I can compete with girls that have beat me in the past because I’m close to them. I just need to mentally believe I can beat them, and then I can,” Esvelt said. 

Demmert is a runner who burst onto the scene and already ranks among the best Falcons. Hansen stated that Demmert quickly adjusted to college running.

“Silas is having a great freshman season so far. He’s adjusted as well as I could hope for a freshman to adjust. I don’t expect that, necessarily,” Hansen mentioned, “but he stepped up right away and seems to be getting better and better every week.”

Even the most flexible athletes must adjust to a new environment. For Demmert, who is from Sitka, Alaska, the hotter weather in Seattle gave him a challenge, but his focus on hills was one thing that helped him do so.

“The first race was a 5k, and that was pretty rough because of the heat. I’m not used to that, but the last two 8ks have been good for me,” Demmert noted. “Hills are really important for me to focus on, so I think I kind of had a bit of a step up on some other people who don’t practice those as much.”

LeBlanc felt good about the team’s start, attributing it to the culture the team has.

“I have felt great about the team’s performance so far,” he stated. “I think that has a lot to do with the overall attitude of the team and how we approach practices, which leads into how we approach race day.”

In addition to Esvelt, LeBlanc and Demmert, Hansen also pointed out Nathaniel Gale, Isaac Venable and Matise Mulch as runners performing well for the Falcons.

“Every week, we’re seeing flashes from different people on our roster,” Hansen said.

The Falcons have one more regular season meet, the Emerald City Open, on Oct. 7. SPU will play in the GNAC Championships on Oct. 21 in Anchorage, Alaska. Then, they will compete in the NCAA D2 West regionals on Nov. 4 in Billings, Montana.

Hansen mentioned that he looks forward to the team competing in those postseason meets.

“GNACs will be interesting. It’s going to be a really close race on both sides for those top five spots,” Hansen stated. “I think we’re going to have to rely on our packs on both sides to make sure we get our number three, four, five across the line before some of those other teams.”

Esvelt invited fans to watch the team at the Emerald City Open in Lower Woodland Park near Greenlake, about one and a half miles from the SPU campus.

“Come support us at the meet next weekend, ’cause it’s really close [by]!” Esvelt said.

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About the Contributors
Callaghan Bluechel, Staff Writer
Rio Giancarlo
Rio Giancarlo, Chief Photographer
Rio is a sophomore visual communication major with a minor in photography. Rio manages a team of photographers and illustrators to supply content for the greater SPU media groups. Before he took his current position he worked as a staff photographer, mostly covering sports. When not working for The Falcon he works for the SPU athletic department and as a freelance photographer. In his free time you can find him skiing, or wishing he was skiing. 
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