Last year, PLNU’s young track and field squad managed to finish with a third-place ranking in two of their meets and a sixth-place finish in the PacWest Conference Championship. While the potential was certainly present, it still had yet to reach its maximum potential.
One year later, the roster has been expanded and the youth has been maintained. Out of 45 team members, 22 are freshmen and nine are sophomores. In the process of expanding the roster was a vast number of freshmen, there is confidence that several gaps that the roster had last season have been filled.
“Obviously, this year we’re going to be a lot stronger in many areas in which we were weak last year,” said associate head coach Shane Peterson. “A lot of our sprinters are also hurdlers, so we got stronger in both areas. We’ve still got a strong pole vaulting crew, and our distance runners came over from the cross country team, who did well at Nationals… The only area I would say we’re a little bit weak is in the throwing area.”
Despite the apparent weakness in the throwing area, there are still some key individual freshmen in which the coaching staff sees potential. “We have one javelin thrower who came in—Starr Rodenhurst—she’s going to do very well,” said Coach Peterson. “We also have a shot and discus thrower, Amanda Timmons. Obviously they’re new to the team, so it will be interesting to see how they do. I think I can speak for all the coaching staff… we’re all excited to see what they can do aside from practice. Once you hit that competition setting, performances usually go up.”
When asked about any key roster losses over the offseason, emphasis was placed on pole vaulting. “We lost a lot of our pole vault crew from last season—Mikaela Morris, Carly Rodgers, Kai Kaneakua, Stephanie Bealulieu—obviously we can’t replace anybody,” said Coach Peterson. “But I think we filled the gaps fairly well for this season.”
There are currently three pole vaulters officially listed on the roster: freshman Noel Sernett, sophomore Isabel Ashley, and sophomore Celine Lum. Lum was seen as a potential Nationals contender last year, but was unable to reach the mark due to an injury.
“Last season I was actually injured after a few meets,” said sophomore Celine Lum. “My personal record last year was 12 feet 1.5 inches. My goal this year is to make it to Nationals.”
Qualifying for Nationals is certainly a high expectation and a fittingly prestigious honor if reached. Other team members, while certainly wishing for a Nationals qualification, feel that any improvement of their personal record would be a successful accomplishment.
“Making a personal record and beating my previous time is always a goal,” said senior hurdler Janie Unkefer. “My ‘big dream’ goal would be making a top 10 list. I’m kind of close there, but a still a lot of work to do.”
Overall, the coaching staff sees significant potential for the team to take a step forward from last season. Coach Peterson said he was looking forward to making final decisions, particularly for the relay team. “Just figuring out what teams we’re going to put together for relays, that’s going to be an exciting task. It’s going to be fun, interesting and difficult all at the same time. We have so many good sprinters to choose from.”
Making the key decisions won’t be an easy task, especially when considering how many newcomers are listed on the roster. The first few meets will be crucial in making adjustments.
“It’s kind of hard to tell who’s going to do what,” said coach Peterson. “After we get a couple meets in, there will be a lot more to say. Hopefully the majority of our team has the natural ‘Go get ‘em’ attitude.”
The women’s track and field team’s first meet will be the Pomona-Pitzer All Comers Meet in Claremont on Saturday, February 18.