The best athletes that the Seattle Pacific University track team has to offer are descending upon the hot and humid region of Abilene, Texas to compete in the 2005 NCAA Division II National Championships this weekend.
In total, eight athletes (six women, two men) will make the trip to Abilene Christian University. Based on the way these athletes have competed during the season and the marks they have achieved to get them this far, this group could walk away with the most success the Falcons have had in recent memory.
Headlining the contingent of Falcons is All-American Danielle Ayers-Stamper. The junior is slated to compete in four events, including the heptathlon. Her score in the heptathlon is the sixth best score put up by an American this year.
"Danielle is in the most competitive event in the NCAA," Coach Jack Hoyt said. "She is going against two superstars from Greece and Barbados in the heptathlon, and it’s sure to be an epic battle."
Ayers-Stamper won the high jump at indoor nationals earlier this year and she will look to improve upon her success by capturing the heptathlon and possibly the high jump and 100-meter hurdles at outdoor nationals.
The men will be hoping for a national title from senior Paul Mach and junior Chris Randolph. Both men have excellent chances to come away with victories in their respective events.
Mach is a fifth year senior and is competing in his third national meet. In the final campaign of his collegiate career, Mach did not disappoint. He won five races this year, including his fifth Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) title and he set the all-time record for the 800 meter in the GNAC. Hoyt has a tremendous amount of confidence in his senior captain.
"He [Mach] brings a lot of experience and I know that he can respond in any race situation," Hoyt commented. "This meet will be an exclamation mark for Paul’s tremendous season."
Chris Randolph has been in the driver’s seat for the decathlon since March. The junior has been ranked first in the nation since he competed in the Cal Multi-Event in Berkeley. He has not competed in a full decathlon since then but he will be looking to improve upon his second-place finish at nationals last season.
"The most important thing for Chris in this meet is to keep level headed," Hoyt said. Randolph will be facing some stiff competition which will more than likely force him to come from behind on the second day of the competition.
One freshman who has hurled herself onto the national scene is SPU javelin thrower Lauren VerMulm. Over spring break, VerMulm tossed the javelin 154 feet, two inches at the Stanford Invitational. The mark is a GNAC record and has her sitting in second position coming into this weekend’s meet.
Despite the enormity of the situation, VerMulm is not losing her easy-going personality.
"She is loose and having fun, and that will probably lead to great results," Hoyt replied. "She’ll also help keep the team relaxed and enjoying the trip."
Junior Amy Harris has had an unforgettable season in the pole vault. After walking on as a freshman and spending the last two years watching her fellow vaulters excel and go to nationals, Harris will get her first shot at outdoor nationals.
She qualified for indoor nationals earlier this year and then exploded during outdoor season, winning four meets (including conference) and raising her personal record (PR) to 12 feet, two inches. Hoyt is excited about Harris’ chances and her competitiveness.
"I think she has a very good chance to be the underdog who comes back as an All-American"
Ayers-Stamper won’t be alone when she competes in the heptathlon. Fellow Falcon Kelsey Cooley will be competing as well after her second place finish in the GNAC heptathlon. The sophomore has been improving by leaps and bounds every week this season, and should put together a solid performance in Abilene.
"Kelsey has been getting better every week of this season," Hoyt remarked. "I like her chances for hitting a PR, possibly breaking 5,000 points and becoming an All-American."
Although she has flown under the radar for most of the season, sophomore Molly Hornbuckle has been piecing together a solid season in the javelin, and now she finds herself throwing on a national stage. A midseason surgery to remove her gallbladder set her back a couple of weeks, but the sophomore is grinding away again and looking for a good showing this weekend.
"It’s amazing that she has come back and is ready to blast out a new PR in the javelin," Hoyt said.
The Ken Foreman Invitational was held at a very strategic time during the season. It was the last chance for an athlete to qualify for nationals, and freshman Bridgette Sexton took full advantage of her opportunity.
The heptathlete ran a qualifying time in the 800 meter, she and will be joining the rest of her teammates on the flight down to Texas. Sexton ran the best time ever in a GNAC heptathlon and the fourth best time overall in GNAC history.
"I’m really excited to watch Bridgette race in a very competitive 800 meters," Hoyt noted. "She has not lost an 800 meter race all year and has usually been winning by 10 seconds, because she has been doing heptathlon 800 meter races."
So the field is set and the hopes are high as SPU joins hundreds of the nation’s best athletes in order to find out who is the best of the best. The bulk of the meet will take place on Friday and Saturday but the heptathlon and decathlon will begin on Thursday.
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Title: Texas, here they come | Author: Grant Ludwick | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2005-05-25 | Internal ID: 4560