SPU track finds the sunshine

Competing against Division I athletes, three Falcons from the women’s track and field team came away with first place in their events at the Cougar Invitational last weekend.

Held in Pullman, Wash., the meet gathered teams from all around the Northwest, including large schools such as University of Idaho, University of Montana, and host Washington State University, as well as SPU and other Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) rivals.

In better weather conditions than those of their recent meets, the Falcon athletes were able to achieve many solid times and distances that surpassed National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) qualifying marks.

Before the meet, regarding the early weather struggles, sophomore Karin Rohde said, “Less-than-ideal weather may not give us the best racing, jumping, or throwing conditions, but if we learn to compete well now with those elements, hopefully future meets will bring even better results.”

Rohde found those results in Pullman, winning the 3,000-meter steeplechase, with fellow Falcon Brandi McCoy taking third. Rohde finished the race with a time of 11:19.18, topping the University of Idaho’s Jessica Friend by over nine seconds.

“My focus this year is the steeplechase, a three-kilometer race I run with fellow teammates Brandi McCoy and Corina James. We prepare for it by racing distances anywhere from 400 meters to five kilometers in the smaller meets and running the steeplechase mostly just when there’s more competition. This way, we build endurance and speed for a race in which they’re both needed and, even more importantly, keep our minds fresh,” Rohde said.

On the field, sophomore Lauren Vermulm, back from an excellent fifth-place finish at the Mount San Antonio College Relays in Azusa, Calif., threw a season-high 147 feet, 2 inches to win the women’s javelin event, beating out even the host throwers from Washington State. The winning throw, her first attempt, was more than two feet farther than her best attempt in California, once again improving her NCAA qualifying distance.

In addition, junior Teona Perkins won the high jump, clearing 5 feet, 7 inches. In what became the deciding round, six jumpers attempted the height, but Perkins was the only competitor who successfully completed the jump.

Back on the track, junior Anna Soule finished sixth in the 400-meter dash, as the University of Montana’s Loni Perkins pulled away and finished nearly two seconds ahead of the field in the sprint.

The middle-distance runners put in solid performances once again, as freshman Suzie Strickler, junior Jennifer Marsh, and senior Josie Lavin took three of the top six spots in the 800-meter run. Strickler led the SPU ladies with a second-place finish, being narrowly beaten out by Washington State’s Haley Paul by less than six-tenths of a second.

The distance runners credit much of their success to the coaching of Doris Heritage, a former distance running star who, along with being a five-time world champion and two-time Olympian, has been inducted into the United States Track Coaches Hall of Fame for her work at SPU. Coach Heritage is now entering her 39th year on the SPU coaching staff.

“She plans tough workouts for the middle and long-distance athletes but is always there, energetic to motivate us through them. Doris is a personable coach and strong Christian, and we are lucky to be athletes under her guidance,” Rohde said.

Meanwhile, for the SPU men, the distance runners brought in the best finishes as well. In the 800-meter run, junior Eddie Strickler finished in fifth place overall, first among Division II runners, with a time of 1:55.95, which was comparable to his recent meets.

Sophomore Brian Cronrath took third in the 1,500-meter run, and junior Bjorn Bostrom placed fourth in the 3,000-meter run. Both runners were the top finishers among Division II athletes.

In the 3,000-meter steeplechase, junior Doug Gibson followed up a win in his previous meet with a seventh-place finish and a time of 9:47.81, about twelve seconds behind his winning time from last week.

Both the men and women represented themselves well against strong competition, as they prepared for the upcoming conference and national meets.

This week, the Falcons compete at both the GNAC Multi-Event Championships in Monmouth, Ore., and at the Western Washington Twilight meet in Bellingham.

“Early on in our spring track season or not, now is the time to be competing each week with a determination to be continually PR-ing [setting personal records] and performing well,” Rohde said.

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Title: SPU track finds the sunshine | Author: Matt Woods | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2006-04-26 | Internal ID: 5019