With commitment, hard work and perseverance behind them, three talented SPU track and field athletes competed in the NCAA Division II Track and Field Championships last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 25-27, in Bradenton, Florida.
Senior thrower Sammi Markham, senior long jumper Kyra Brannan and junior distance runner Mary Charleson all competed in the Championships in their respective events with pleasing outcomes.
Markham represented the Falcons for the last time with her best throw of 140 feet 8 inches, which earned her 12th place in the event, and secured her second-team All-American honors from the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
“I was happy with the way I competed on Saturday,” Markham said. “Of course I would have wanted to place in the top eight and get All-American, but that’s just the way track is; no matter how you do, you’re always striving to be better. I was happy that I stayed composed and confident, especially considering this was my first time going to Nationals.”
Markham fell in love with throwing, especially javelin, in her junior year of high school. This love for the sport continued to grow at SPU due to the support and guidance that surrounded Markham throughout her career.
“I love that the coaches care so much about each of their athletes,” Markham said. “You can tell that they really pay attention to how each person is doing and check in if someone seems like they’re having an off day.”
The nursing major from Gig Harbor, Washington is now looking forward to graduating in just a few weeks and then hopefully securing a position as a nurse in a local Seattle hospital.
“I want to work in an O.R., and I’m looking at jobs that will start sometime in the fall,” Markham said. “Up until then, I’ll be working as a barista in Seattle at Starbucks and studying for the NCLEX, the licensing exam for nurses.”
This national meet also marked the last chance for Kyra Brannan to represent Seattle Pacific. The senior from Kennewick, Washington competed in the long jump and placed 15th overall with a jump of 19 feet 5¼ inches.
“I was really satisfied with my result,” Brannan said. “I came into this meet knowing it’d be my last ever track event. There was no pressure, but the opportunity to do well. It was overall such an honor to even go to Nationals.”
Brannan will graduate in June with a mechanical engineering degree. She hopes that she can then use her degree to secure a job in the theme park industry, designing roller coasters.
But despite her exciting future, Brannan will miss the camaraderie and team spirit of the Falcons.
“I love the closeness,” Brannan said. “Track is a really hard sport because 90 percent of the time, it’s all individual. But those times where you come together as a team and try to win conference titles are the best moments because that’s when you see everyone work their hardest.”
Unlike the other two athletes, Mary Charleson has one more year representing SPU, which she is looking forward to as it gives her another opportunity to improve on her successful season this spring. Charleson ran to 19th place in the 5,000 meters on Saturday, finishing with a time of 17 minutes 15.48 seconds.
“I was extremely grateful to meet my goal of running at the national meet” Charleson said. “The result wasn’t quite what I wanted, but I competed hard and gave it my best. I’m thankful that I have another year to improve my place at nationals and go for another All-American honor.”
Charleson too loves that the Falcons genuinely focus on getting points for themselves as a team, rather than concentrating on solely individual results.
“I love that our team really comes together at the conference meet in the spring,” Charleson said. “We make a traditionally individual sport very team orientated.”