Women compete in Kansas

When Michael Jordan left the deep blue abyss known as college basketball and began his journey with the Chicago Bulls, no one knew the magnitude of the legacy that he was about to begin.

Here, in the Falcon’s nest, the vision for the track and field program is a little more clear, and a potential great legacy is now looming before our very eyes.

It is the dawning of a new era for SPU track.

This week, seven of the top contending athletes from Seattle Pacific University have traveled to Emporia, Kansas to compete against the best college track stars in the country. This will mark the end of the ’98-’99 season, and pave the way for a new beginning in coaching and training.

Coach Jack Hoyt has been an influential part of the SPU track and field program for over a decade. Lettering all four of his seasons as a student from 1983-87, he competed in the decathlon, placing fourth in 1987 and later qualifying for the 1992 US Olympic Trials.

As his star pupil during college, Hoyt has, for the past ten years, been Assistant Coach to Ken Foreman.

Following the NCAA meet, Foreman will be passing the torch onto his young apprentice and step down to be his assistant for the 1999-2000 season, after thirty-nine years of being coach, pioneer, and friend to the Falcon’s track and field program.

For these next few weeks, though, he is still the number one man, and though his athletes have much bigger things to focus on than the transition that will take place next year, they are looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.

Fearless and ready, the ladies who right now are competing among the top in the nation, are prepared to take advantage of this opportunity.

Rachel Ross, one of the Falcon’s top distance runners, and the 4th best 800m runner in the nation, has a good attitude about the upcoming changes in the track and field program.

"We are a really young team right now," Ross said. "We can only get better, and grow stronger."

Cyrena Bell is one of the two girls in the team of seven that is returning to the championship block. As a sophomore she has been one of the team leaders this year and is confident about next season as well.

"From here on out, we can only improve," Bell said. "This is the beginning of a new prime."

For now, though, the major focus of the team is their performance at Nationals.

Karen Summers, a sophomore, will join Bell in the 4×400 relay. Both women will not be competing in any other events while at the meet in Kansas. They are expected to play a key role in the teams hopes for putting that particular relay in the All American standings.

Out of the remaining five that will compete individually, the two title hopefuls are none other than Laura Widman, and Ross.

Ross comes running out of the last four meets with all straight victories in the 800. She is among the top five in her event and will come home as an All American, and hopefully a little more.

For Ross, going to Nationals is stirring some mixed emotions within her.

"This is a big accomplishment for me," Ross said. "This has been the best season of my life since the start. Now I’ve been beginning to get a little nervous and scared over these past few weeks," she admitted.

Ross can look to some of the more experienced members of the team for advice on how to deal with the pressure of such an important meet.

Bell remembers her previous trip to nationals, and notices a difference in her mental preparation for the meet.

"I’m not as scared as I was last year, like what Rachel is feeling," she said. "That was a good nervousness. It makes things happen."

One of the people that the team is counting on to make something happen is freshman Laura Widman.

The notorious Widman has done an incredible job of coming back from a fractured elbow she acquired last month. As a freshman, she has let the nation know that she isn’t here to play games either.

"My biggest goal," Widman says, "is to hit the scores that I have set to reach. I’m going to compete. I have the confidence that I can beat the top athlete [in the heptathlon]."

At the SPU Invitational two weeks ago, Widman brought home her personal record of 4871. This has given both coach Foreman and Hoyt high hopes for the real possibility of having her bring home the gold from the NCAA Division II National Championships.

Stephanie Huffman is no stranger to being one of the best. This past fall she set records for the most kills on the volleyball team.

Now as a track athlete Huffman will join Widman in the heptathlon with high hopes of becoming an All American.

To complete the holy number of seven are high jumper, Abby Harris, and distance runner, Julie Swann.

Swann is athlete that can be counted on for a stand out performance as well as a wonderful attitude and amazing leadership for the young team.

"We really admire Julie," Bell said, "as a person and her abilities on the track."

Swann is the only other athlete on the team to return to nationals with Bell. She has come a long way since back surgery and has nothing short of 100% to give.

Harris, a sophomore, was fractions away from making the cut last season, and was only provisionally qualified before Sunday this year.

With these foot-holds, the Falcons will be leaning very much on the weight of tradition. The expertise of the coaches and the talents of these young stars will open the doors for a fresh new start next year.

If next year starts off with the power and poise that SPU finished on this season, there is no telling what kind of show they will give. A season that did nothing but improve throughout the entire year is going to be a stepping stone for the coming seasons.

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Title: Women compete in Kansas | Author: Blake Raney | Section: Sports | Published Date: 1999-05-26 | Internal ID: 685