WRITTEN BY: GRIFFIN ASELTINE | STAFF WRITER
With several key seniors gone, some talented recruited freshmen, a promotion within the coaching staff, and a sudden transition into NCAA Division II, it would be an understatement to say that recent times have been a period of typical changes for the women’s track and field team.
“We’re missing some key cogs from last year that were really important,” said head coach Jerry Arvin, who has been a crucial part of PLNU’s track and field program for 20 years. “While we still have some great senior leadership, we’re a really young team with mostly fresh- men and sophomores. We’re still waiting to see how everything unfolds with this group, but if we continue to build, we might be back to the pinnacle we were at five years ago.”
While every college team faces drastic roster changes over time, it’s been a critical story within the PLNU women’s track and field team, especially considering how the strengths and weaknesses of the squad have been dramatically altered.
“We lost Soliaana Faapouli (thrower), Emily Loogman (hurdler) and Alexia Avila (hurdler),” said Arvin. “Those areas probably won’t be our strengths this year, so we’re looking for some improvement in pole vaulting, jumping and distance running.”
Nearly two-thirds of the current roster are composed of freshmen or sophomores (24-of-37). But some members of the team feel that the young talent sparks positive competitiveness within the en- tire squad.
“The freshman distance runners showed their potential during cross country; they’ve pushed Alex Hernandez to a level we’ve never seen before,” said Arvin. “Hawaii State Champion Celine Lum (pole vaulting), Idaho State Cham- pion Hannah Cain (sprinter), Katrina Lusky (jumper), Erin Beezhold (sprinter) and many other young contributors are also going to change the dynamics of this team.”
Hernandez said the freshmen talent has made a significant affect on the team.
“We have a lot of freshmen on the team who are pushing us and making us better,” said Hernandez. “I know that be- cause of them, I can definitely improve.”
A particularly important meet will be the PacWest Championship at Azusa on April 28. The PacWest did not hold a championship meet in 2015, so it will be the team’s first conference championship in two years.
“Last year we didn’t have a Conference Championship to compete at, but this year we’re back to that,” Arvin said.
“It’s critical for what we do because it gives us a goal to aim for, as well as a chance at a title.”
Aside from the aforementioned changes, perhaps the most significant story of all is that of Shane Peterson, who was recently announced as the new assistant head coach. Peterson has been coaching for PLNU’s track and field program since 2000, and is a Sea Lion alumnus.
“It’s been a long road working with Jerry Arvin. He’s been a really good father-figure to a lot of us,” said Peterson. “While my promotion hasn’t officially taken effect, it’s kind of known by now, especially by the team. It’s a dream come true. I love working with Jerry and what he stands for and he’s looked out for me since day one. This really puts that extra fire under me to make sure that I’m doing my job and laying the foundation.”
Peterson said the team’s recent transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II has significantly changed the competition level of the team.
“The level of competition that we’re looking at to even qualify for the post- season has really elevated,” said Peterson. “We’ve talked to the girls and told them that if they want a shot at competing in the National Championship, they need to dig as deep as they possibly can.”
The first meet will be the Collegiate All Comers Meet on Saturday, February 20 at Pitzer College. They will be participating in a total of eleven meets this year, including the PacWest Conference Championship.
photo by PLNUsealions.com