The Sea Lion’s track and field team is starting off strong after placing fifth out of 26 universities at the NCCAA National Championships last year.
With this year marking the first competitive season at the Division II level, Head Coach Jerry Arvin said last year’s finish does not serve as an accurate determinant for success this season. Arvin said the competitive field has improved considerably from last year.
“The hard part is that’s like comparing apples to grapes,” said Arvin. “The NCCAA was a good meet, and it was a challenging meet, but it’s nothing like the NCAA Division II meet, which we will be lucky if we get somebody qualified for that meet.”
Unlike previous NAIA policies, the NCAA qualifying standards for placing in the national championships are much more difficult. The former policy allowed for schools to select up to three athletes to represent each team as a right of entry even if the players failed to meet the qualifying times. For Division II, athletes simply fail to qualify if they do not meet the most competitive times in the field, said Arvin.
“They have made it so that basically they’re going to fill the field with the best provisional athletes,” said Arvin. “In the NAIA, if you make the mark, you’re in the meet and if you make the provisional mark, each school had three right of entries—so you could take them and put them in the meet. You don’t have that with the NCAA; there’s no right of entry for any school. So with the NCAA, they limit the field.”
In spite of the new challenge, the Sea Lions bring athletes with impressive records to the table. Senior Chloe Soremekun won the NCCAA triple jump championship last year and placed fourth all-time on PLNU’s record list at the same meet. She finished with a personal best of 38 feet, 11 inches. She said this year’s team has potential despite losing Lyndsay Honea—two-time GSAC heptathlon champion. Honea is now one of the five assistant coaches for the track and field team.
“She’s definitely kept the dynamic and the flow of the team going [as an athlete],” said Soremekun. “She’s been super encouraging, super supportive and her presence as a coach has been even more influential because she doesn’t necessarily have to focus on herself to get her technique better, but she can use the skills that she’s learned herself to pour into other people, which has been really awesome.”
Another accomplished player who brings skill to the field events is senior Soliaana Faapouli. She placed in the top six for the hammer, shot put and javelin events during the NCCAA championships. Faapouli said she takes on an influential role this year as one of two seniors on the team.
“This year, we have a huge class of freshmen,” said Faapouli. “So it’s kind of like I have to be more of a role model as far as work ethic and also my respect for other teammates and coaches. So [I am] just trying to be a good example for everybody.”
With the season opener approaching at the CMS Rossi Relays on Feb. 28, Arvin said the team has strengths, but the first year may be more of a learning experience for many of the athletes.
“I still think it’s very much a rebuilding year. We do have some good seniors, but we’re still young with the amount of freshmen and sophomores we have,” said Arvin. “All three of our main [pole] vaulters are all juniors so that’s another area in which they may grow really well this year… we won’t know until the season [starts], but they have great possibilities.”