Conference championship obtained, NCAA’s on horizon

Women’s track takes home third straight championship, women’s rowing grabs second place

Daniel Newman, Sports Editor

Dania Holmberg competes at a meet at the University of Washington on May 7th. (Jacky Chen)

It had been 434 days since anyone in the GNAC had last won a conference title, and Women’s Track was able to grab a hold of one of them, winning their third team title in a row, posting 208 team points and gaining 11 team wins.

“Words cannot describe the pride we feel in this team. We capped off the worst year we’ve ever had with perhaps the best meet we’ve ever had,” said associate head coach Chris Reed. “Everyone came out firing and it was a dominant display. This team has been through so much this past year and we are thankful we had the opportunity to showcase what we are capable of.

In Friday’s events, Renick Meyer was the first to bring home a title for the Falcons at McArthur Field in Monmouth, Oregon, winning the long jump with a mark of 5.98 meters. Kate Lilly came close to another title, finishing second in the 3000m steeplechase with a time of 11:12.99. Belle Brandenfels rounded out the best results for the team on the day by finishing fourth in the 10,000 meter run.

Lilly returned for an extra season this year, and though she didn’t run as fast as normal due to battling sickness in the winter, she called the decision to come back again a gift.

“My runner-up finishes at the championship were the result of determination to score as many points as possible for the team.” Lilly said. “It meant so much to return to practice this spring and bring what I could to benefit the team. Contributing to one last GNAC team title was such a special way to finish off my career.”

The next day was even better for the team, as they won ten more events, including both relay events, as Scout Cai, Dania Holmberg, Ellie Rising, and Meyer all grabbed individual titles.

One of the biggest races of the day for the Falcons was the 100 meter dash. Four Falcons entered the race out of eight competitors, and they swept the event, as Jenna Bouyer won the title, Grace Bley finished in second, and Meyer and Julia Stepper finished in third and fourth. Bley also won an individual title for the Falcons in the 200m.

“That was definitely one of the moments midday Saturday where we felt we had all but wrapped up the team title,” Reed said. “Those ladies ran with such confidence and stayed true to their training and technique. They couldn’t have done it without each other and they used that energy to their advantage.”

The men’s team also took big steps forward, putting up 44 points, guiding them to a sixth place finish.

David Njeri, pictured competing in tripe jump at meet on May 7th. (Jacky Chen)

The meet also came with a little Falcon history, as no Falcon had ever scored a team point at the championships in the men’s triple jump. David Njeri didn’t just score points, he won the entire event, jumping 14.81 meters, or around 48.5 feet.

Many Falcons were able to produce points for the team on the weekend, as Njeri finished sixth in the long jump, Brad Bowman finished sixth in the Pole Vault, Jared Putney finished fourth in the 3000 meter steeplechase, Colin Boutin finished in fifth in the 10,000 and Brayden Schultz finished in sixth in the 1500.

Jeff Gordon also came up with two top five finishes, finishing in fifth in the 100 meter dash and third in the 200 meter dash.

“The energy I was able to feed off of that my teammates provided was unmatched. It being my first conference championship, I really wanted to make sure I enjoyed the moment and had fun,” Gordon said. “I came away with two new personal records, and all conference honors. After a year that made a track season seem impossible, that’s all I can ask for.”

When the dust settled, most of the Falcons’ track seasons will be done for now, but Scout Cai and Dania Holmberg will be heading to the NCAA meet on May 27-29 in Allendale, Michigan.

Women’s rowing also took part in the first ever GNAC rowing championships on Saturday as well, but the team were not crowned the conference champions. That honor would instead go to Central Oklahoma University, as they won two out of the three races on the day. The Falcons varsity eight crew rowed their fastest time of the season, 6:50.57. However, Central Oklahoma was still able to dominate the race, finishing just over twenty seconds faster than the Falcon crew with a time of 6:29.85. Western Washington finished ten seconds behind the Falcons.

In the varsity four race, the results were the same, but the margin was closer. Seattle Pacific was only two seconds behind Central Oklahoma in this race, while Western Washington finished a distance third.

The Falcons did get a win in the open four race, beating Central Oklahoma by eight seconds in a race that was considered an exhibition.

Unfortunately, this marked the end of the Falcons season, as the selection committee chose Embry Riddle University of Florida instead. The field for the NCAA rowing championships was reduced from six teams to four this year, leaving only one at-large spot for many talented colleges and universities.