Young, vibrant, cohesive, and searching for an identity.
These are some of the symbols of PLNU’s women’s cross country team this year.
Coach Jerry Arvin – who has led the team for 21 years – elaborated on this new dynamic.
“This team is vastly different than most of them in that it’s really, really young,” Arvin said. “It’s got three senior girls, two junior girls, and the other 15 are freshman and sophomores. So it’s a very young team that’s still trying to find its identity. It’s a different team than we’ve had in the past, but we’re trying to grow back again into the teams where we had a span of about 10 years where our girls would qualify and go to nationals every year.”
This marks the first year PLNU will be competing on the Division II level from NAIA. The competition is as high as it has ever been in school history as PLNU embarks on an increased level of competition, especially coupled with the added competition in the PacWest conference. The conference boasts some of the best women’s cross country teams in the nation, with three of eight teams qualifying for nationals coming from the western region, according to Arvin.
“The West by far, year in and year out, have spots in nationals. We just happen to be in one of the strongest regions in cross country,” Arvin said. “The Pacific Northwest and California all have very good teams that go to nationals and typically do well.”
Arvin said he is hopeful that the team will stack up against the competition.
“How do we stack up?” Arvin said. “Not real well against those teams [western region]. We’ve just got to grow as a team, especially since we’re so young.”
While the team is composed of mostly freshmen, these women bring a team camaraderie vital for success in the future.
Freshman Alexandra Hernandez finished a team best – 22nd out of 157 people at the UC Irvine/Adidas Invitational – and reinstated this notion.
“We had training practice before the season started, which I think was super helpful for getting acquainted with everyone,” Hernandez said. “We all go out to dinner sometimes, and even now with school going on, we will go to chapels together. I love the team a lot! We’re pretty close on and off
Sophomore Hallie Swenson—who managed to finish in the top 50 at the invite—said even with more freshmen on the team, dysfunction is not an issue.
“Yeah, we include them in everything,” Swenson said. “We just want them to see who we are as a team. I feel like it’s going well. We all get along.”
Past success as a team can be possibly attributed due to Arvin’s outstanding coaching. . By catering to each player’s needs and treating them fairly according to their situations, the coach received the Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year Award in 2004, 2007 and 2009 along with numerous accolades in track and field.
“He really encourages us, but he also relies on us to be on our own and get the extra training in,” Swenson said. “We do weights in the morning, cross train to get the extra miles in, [and] core and abs on our own, so he really expects a lot from us, but that’s what will make us a better team.”
The cross country team will continue to stride toward success at the Willamette Invitational in Salem, Oregon on October 4.