For everyone who is attending, the NCAA Division II National Championship meet in Allendale, Mich., is a privilege, something you have to work hard for in order to compete.
For senior Kishia Mitchell, just having the opportunity to attend college is a privilege.
“I didn’t think college was a possibility,” Mitchell said.
In fact, no one in her family has ever attended college before.
“I am the first one to go to college,” Mitchell said. “None of my siblings [have gone.]”
Mitchell thought it was going to happen to her as well — then she started running.
“I started running track in high school,” Mitchell said. “And I started to become really competitive my senior year.”
Then the recruiting letters started pouring in for Mitchell — she even got letters from Division I schools like the University of Washington and Washington State University.
“I got one from SPU and heard good things about it,” Mitchell said. “[I also got some letters] from Brown and some school in Philadelphia. I got a lot more [letters] than I thought I would.”
For Mitchell, choosing a school was tough, as her parents didn’t really have any idea how the process worked, having never gone to college themselves. In the end, she was drawn to the small school.
“SPU is the only school I chose to visit,” Mitchell said. “I was going to visit WSU, [then] I thought about it logically. If I go to a big school and don’t run the way they want, I will get kicked off. It’s a business. [If I go to a small school] I will have more help from coaches and with my classes.”
Now that Mitchell is at SPU, she can’t imagine it any other way.
“I’m learning so much more here than I ever would have if I didn’t go to school,” Mitchell said. “Knowing that there is more to life than just working all the time, [I’m learning that the world] is bigger than myself, and [I’m] making really good friendships.”
The other senior that is experiencing her final collegiate meet is McKayla Fricker, who has run all over the SPU record books during her time here and is looking to get one more record. She is running the 800-meter run and is a part of the 4×400 relay team that Mitchell is also on.
Fricker, an Oregon native, was attracted to Seattle Pacific for a lot of the same reasons that Mitchell was. She loved the small-school feel despite being recruited by Oregon State University.
“Between this and Oregon State, [I felt] like I wanted the smaller community of SPU and the Christian community,” Fricker said. “Seeing the success that SPU has had and it’s strong program is what brought me here.”
Fricker has had her fair share of troubles during her career at SPU, as injuries plagued her freshman year.
“I got injured halfway through [the indoor track season],” Fricker said. “I dealt with confidence issues in my running ability.”
Because of these injuries, Fricker felt like she had something to prove coming back into her sophomore year.
“[I] came back sophomore year and showed [my team and coaches] that I am here for a reason,” Fricker said. “[I] got my confidence back up and felt like I was a part of the team.”
Fricker made nationals for indoor that year. Junior year was met with more disappointment for Fricker as she had a disappointing ending, which led her to a senior year where she wants to give it everything she’s got and leave no regrets.
“So far, each race I’ve learned something more,” Fricker said. “Each race I’ve accomplished what I want to do.”
However, the main reason that Mitchell and Fricker came to SPU is for the track program. And after four years, that is all coming to a close, starting when SPU will fly Mitchell, Fricker, the rest of their 4×400 relay team and sophomore Lynelle Decker out to Michigan to compete in the biggest meet of the year, which takes place Thursday–Saturday.
The meet starts on Thursday, but the Falcons won’t run until the next day with the 800 prelims at 6:15 p.m. ET and the 4×400 prelims at 8:05 p.m. ET.
The 4×400 consists of Mitchell, Fricker, and juniors Tasia Baldwin and Jasmine Johnson.
The relay team didn’t think they were going to the final meet, as they snuck in as the last of 15 teams that qualify for the meet with a time of 3 minutes 45.63 seconds they set on April 4 at the Stanford Invitational.
Fricker is also competing with Decker in the 800. Fricker is seeded No. 3 with her time that she set at the Mount SAC Relays, and Decker is seeded No. 15.
What is next for the athletes now is just playing with mind games, getting in the right mode to compete at their fullest when the big day arrives — then it will be all about performance.
“When I get to the meet it’s going to be about getting myself healthy,” Mitchell said. “Not getting so tight and get loose and focused. When I’m not focused, meets are a lot harder.”
For Fricker, it’s all about figuring out just what race she is taking place in.
“It’s definitely been a lot of work trying to figure out [the mindset] for myself,” Fricker said. “What I’ve come to do is to not put pressure on myself and look at it as a time to run free and in God’s glory and presence and run as hard as I can and not worry about anything else and what everyone is expecting.”
For most of the athletes, they are just excited about the experience of running with the best in the country.
“I am most excited to compete with people who are a lot faster than me and who will challenge me,” Mitchell said.
And when the final race has been run, the seniors will be done with their track careers, looking back at how far they have come and the mark they have made at SPU, a place that has given them both so much in so many different ways.
For Fricker, she wants the younger athletes to learn the lessons that she learned from having a career with such ups and downs.
“What I really would love to pass down to my teammates is just to be really determined and work hard,” Fricker said. “And when you come to a time that’s frustrating, don’t let it get to you and work harder every day.”
For Mitchell, she wants people to remember her for who she was, both her personality and her performance.
“I want people to remember me not only as a competitor but as a person, too,” Mitchell said. “[I want to be] remembered as a friend and an athlete who loves her sport.”
However, for Mitchell, it is more than what she did on track, it’s what she did for the people who are close to her — and that is something that is much more important to her.
“[I think of going to college] as being pretty normal,” Mitchell said. “But when I think of my family and [when] they talk to me, they think it’s really cool. Now my little sister is going to college, and some of my family is going. I started a new trend, and I think it’s really great.”