Back to back championships

Daniel Newman

For the second year in a row, the Seattle Pacific University Women’s track team took home the GNAC championship, edging out Central Washington University with a total team score of 166 to 162.

“We have had a little rivalry with CWU these past couple of years and they were gunning for us. The Wildcats were tremendous in many respects and had several heroic efforts. We needed to be at or near our best to hold them off. I truly feel that, like any healthy rivalry, both teams brought out the best in each other. That made for an exhilarating two days,” said assistant track coach Chris Reed.

In addition to the team championship, the Falcons also had four individual champions. The first of which was Scout Cai, who reached a height of 12-10 on Friday night, which was a new meet record. The height was of vast importance for Cai, as the jump pushed her into the 13th seed in the event nationally. Joining her on the podium was teammate Madison Licari. Seeded 10th in the conference before heading into the event, Licari cleared the bar at 11-10.5 inches, good enough for second place.

The rest of the champions for the Falcons came on Saturday, as Grace Bley repeated as champion in the 200-meter dash, while Jenna Bouyer and Peace Igbonagwam came in fourth and fifth. The three teamed up with Julia Stepper to win the 4×100 relay, achieving another meet record with a time of 46.32 seconds.

The Falcon men had their best performance in the championship since 2012, and they also had one individual champion, as senior Jesse Phan won the 800. In the last 300 meters of the race, Phan pushed past the pack to take control of the lead, and never looked back. He finished with a time of 1:53.99.

It marked the first individual title for the Falcon men in a track event since 2013.

“Jesse’s win was one of the highlights of my coaching career and was definitely one of the biggest moments for us this past weekend,” said Reed. “I was in tears after watching him do that. He has been working his tail off for four years, and despite some injuries and lots of solo training efforts, he has persisted. On Saturday, he took the lead earlier than is typical in 800-meter races and took the will away from the other guys on the track. He ran with purpose and determination and was rewarded with a landslide victory. Incredibly special moment.”

On Friday night, the finals for most of the distance events took place. On the men’s side, Colin Boutin finished in fifth in the 10000. In the 3000 steeplechase, Colby Otero finished in fourth place, while Jared Putney finished in eighth. These times marked a career best for all three.

The foundation for the women’s championship title was set with the distance races on Friday night. Katherine Walter ran in the 10000 for the first time in her college career and finished second in the conference. Sedona McNerney finished right behind Walter in third. In the 3000 steeplechase, Kaylee Mitchell finished in second, and Kelsey Washenburger finished in sixth. In the long jump, Renick Meyer jumped 18-7, and Peace Igbonagwam jumped 18-4 1/2. The jumps were good enough for third and fourth places in the event.

On Saturday, the Falcon women’s best event was the 100, as five of the eight runners in the event were Falcons. Grace Bley, Peace Igbonagwam, Jenna Bouyer and Renick Meyer took spots two, three, four and five, while Julia Stepper finished in seventh. Meyer also took third in the 100 hurdles.
Distance running was again a strong point for the Falcons on Saturday. Kate Lilly had a career best performance in the 1500, finishing in 4:27.13. Kaylee Mitchell and Elizabeth Thompson also finished seventh and eighth in the event. The Falcons also had five runners finish in the top ten in the 5000. Dania Holmberg took third, while Lilly took fourth and Mitchell took sixth. Washenburger and Walter rounded out the top 10 by finishing in ninth and 10th.

Krystal Kaufman finished in eighth in the 800. Rebecca Troescher broke 58 seconds for the first time in her career in the 400, finishing in fifth with a time of 57.47. Troescher also teamed up with Peace Igbonagwam, Jenna Bouyer and Grace Bley to secure a fifth-place finish in the 4×400 relay. Igbonagwam also took ninth in the triple jump. Finally, Geneva Lehnert finished tied for third in the high jump, while Scout Cai finished tied for seventh. The team needed every single one of these finishes to secure a championship for the second year in a row.

“We are proud of the dedication, hard work and spirit the athletes have displayed over the course of the year. The ladies certainly earned that championship,” said Reed.

On the men’s side, Otero finished in third in the 5000, and Elius Graff finished in eighth in the same race, setting a personal best time. Sean Barbour cleared the bar at 14-6 1/4, good enough for an eighth-place finish in the triple jump, and Silas Newby jumped 42-8 3/4 in the triple jump, which put him in eleventh place at the end of the event.

The team season is now over for both the men and women’s track teams. For those who qualified individually, the NCAA Division II championships will take place on May 23-25 in Kingsville, Texas at the Texas A&M Kingsville campus. Many Falcons have posted qualifying times or distances in different events, and the announcement about who qualifies for each event will be coming soon.