Another opportunity to lead

Three senior track runners returning for 2021 season

Sabrina Jiles, Staff Reporter

Jacky Chen
Senior Grace Bley running the last lap of the anchor leg for the Falcon women’s 4x400m relay at the UW Invitational at the Dempsey Indoor Track on Feb 1. She is one of three Falcons claiming an extra year of NCAA eligibility.

The Seattle Pacific University spring sports athletes were preparing to start their 2019-2020 season when COVID-19 hit and they were met with the unfortunate news that their season was ending right as it was beginning. This news especially affected the seniors of those teams.

Having one’s college sports career end due to a national pandemic is not an ideal way to finish things off. But for some seniors, this won’t be the end to their college career. The NCAA has announced that seniors competing in spring sports have the option of accepting an extra year of eligibility. This means that seniors who are competing in spring sports can participate in the 2021 season as seniors again.

The biggest decision for these students involved deciding whether or not going back to school and taking another year of classes was worth it.

“We wanted to make sure that this wasn’t a decision that would negatively impact the athletes professional career,” Athletic Director Jackson Stava said.

Looking ahead to next season, the team will also return many athletes who were not seniors, as well as a new freshman class.

a woman hits the bar during a pole vault attempt
Blake Dahlin
Scout Cai placed third at Husky Classic on Feb. 15 with a vault of 12 ft and one half inch. She will return to compete for SPU next year.

“This is kind of a double-edged sword,” Stava said.

“On one hand, certainly if you can bring back talented seniors, competitively you can put yourself at an advantage. We’re bringing back three track and field athletes, all of whom can win races and score lots of points,” Stava said. 

Having more returning athletes can leave less spots for freshman runners as well.

“This could have created tension in some places, however, we have three amazing female athletes returning who are just incredible people,” Stava said.

Out of the twelve seniors who participated on a spring sports team this year, only three seniors will be returning to compete next year: Grace Bley, Scout Cai, and Kate Lilly. All three will be valuable returnees to next year’s team.

Bley is a two-time GNAC Champion in the 200 meter dash, part of a 4×100 meter relay championship team, part of a 4×100 GNAC meet-record relay and a university-record relay.

Kate Lilly and Kaylee Mitchell finish their first kilometer together in front of the pack.
Ben Hansen, The Falcon

Cai is the 2019 GNAC pole vault champion, a double All-American in pole vault and heptathlon, scored 5,000+ points in 4 heptathlons and a two-time NCAA championship participant. 

Last but not least, Lilly is a first team All-American in the 5,000 meter, second team All-American in the 1500 meter and has participated in 6 NCAA championship meets. 

These three talented athletes will continue to lead and build a foundation for the future of Falcons track as the women’s track and field team will look to repeat as conference champions when the Spring of 2021 rolls around.