Setting an example, making memories

Reflecting on the careers of women’s cross country, track and field teams

Brandon Bee, Staff Reporter

A woman hold a baton and runs around the curve on a track
Grace Bley, the 4x400m anchor, is chasing down the anchor from University of Alaska Anchorage at the UW Invitational at the Dempsey Indoor Track on Feb 1. (Jacky Chen)

Seattle Pacific University’s cross country and track and field teams are seeing seniors graduate this year. While track and field’s season was cut short during the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still a lot to reflect on as they have had many memorable experiences in their time on the team.

The seniors for the Falcons this year were Grace Bley, Scout Cai, Kate Lilly, Sedona McNerney and Katherine Walter. The latter three also competed on the Cross Country team in the fall.  

Senior Scout Cai, who only got to participate in a handful of track and field meets this year before the rest of them were canceled. She participated in Pentathlon, Pole Vaults and Sprints when competing. On the team, Cai is not much of a vocal person, but she considers herself to be a leader.

“My role as a leader was to lead by example,” she said. “I have seen different kinds of leadership from previous seniors. The best ones were the ones who worked hard every day, didn’t complain and stayed positive. This was how I wanted to be a leader on my team, in hopes that others would follow.”

Cai has had many accolades throughout her time at SPU. In 2018, she made the first team indoor All American in pentathlon and in the following year, in 2019, made the team again with pole vault as well. 

In 2019, she was the West Region indoor Field Athlete of the Year and in 2018 she earned herself a spot as the Field Athlete of the Week at a University of Washington Invitational where she set personal records for four of the five events and got the second-best pentathlon score of the Division II season with 3,709 points.

When recalling memories of her career, distance and cross-country runner Sedona McNerney spoke about her final cross country race in college.

Scout Cai pole vaulted and finished as an All-American at nationals.
(Jenna Rasmussen )

“My most memorable moment as a part of the women’s cross country team at SPU was competing at the 2019 NCAA DII National Championships for cross country,” she said in an email. “This was my last cross country race of college, ending my best season yet, and the race took place in my hometown. It also marked the end of a season that challenged us in unprecedented ways as a team, and I have never been more proud to race alongside a group of women.”

McNerney has improved over the years while being on the team. In cross country, during her freshman and sophomore years, she initially ran on the bottom half of the team. Looking toward her junior and senior years, she has shown lots of improvement and placed sixth on the team at the GNAC Championships in those years. 

In track and field, she earned GNAC All-Academic honors in 2018 and 2019, and in 2019 she was awarded All-GNAC in the outdoor 10,000 meters.

Kate Lilly has had an exceptional career at SPU on the cross country and track and field teams. 

In 2019, she was named an All-GNAC athlete in the mile and distance medley relay in her senior season. In 2018 and 2019 she made the NCAA All-West Region. Lilly was also a three-time GNAC All-Academic honoree in 2017, 2018 and 2019. 

Her best race in her career came in her senior season where she placed second in the GNAC Championships at a snow-filled course in Billings, Montana.

Grace Bley, who participated in sprint races, started her collegiate career at the University of Portland and then transferred to SPU in her sophomore year. 

In her sophomore season, she placed 2nd in the GNAC 200-meter with a time of 25.08 in the indoor. During the outdoor season, she won the GNAC championship, running with a time of 24.70 seconds. In her junior season, Bley followed that up by grabbing the GNAC championship again in the 200 with a time of 24.56. She was selected to the All-GNAC indoor 200 team in 2018 and 2019.

Katherine Walter has had ups and downs during her time at SPU. 

In her junior season in 2019, she suffered an injury that made her miss most of the season, and in her freshman season in 2017, she did not compete in the indoor track and field meets. In 2019 for track and field, she made the All-GNAC team in the 10,000 meters as well as the GNAC All-Academic team in 2018 and 2019. For cross country, she made the All-West Region team in 2018 and the GNAC All-Academic team in 2017, 2018, and 2019.