Goodbye gray clouds, hello blue skies and high temperatures.
On Friday, April 1, Seattle Pacific University’s men’s and women’s track teams traveled to Clovis, Calif., to compete in the warm rays of the sun in the West Coast Relays.
The Falcons didn’t win any of the events in the encounter, but it was still a successful trip for SPU. Although SPU did not record any wins, there were f
our events that the Falcons have ranked in the top three. That wasn’t the end of the Falcons’ accomplishments.
A six-year-old SPU record was broken, six athletes finished races with NCAA qualifying times, and 12 new personal bests were achieved.
Sophomore distance runner Annika Esvelt was the closest to winning an event at the meet as she took second place in the women’s 5,000 meters with a time of 16:14.31. That race was Esvelt’s outdoor debut in the 5,000 meters and she was just six seconds off Colorado State University senior Sarah Carter’s time of 16:08.95.
Esvelt’s time was enough for her to snatch second place on SPU’s all-time list for the 5,000 meters, behind former Falcon Jessica Pixler’s time of 15:44.07 set in 2010. After the competition , Esvelt was ranked No. 2 in the 5,000 meters for all Division II.
Prior to that encounter, Esvelt was also named Great Northwest Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year for the 2021-22 indoor season. She was honored alongside freshman pole vaulter Charlie Hill, who was named GNAC Newcomer of the Year.
Junior sprinter and jumper David Njeri also made his 2022 outdoor debut in the long jump and triple jump. Njeri has taken part in these events in previous seasons, but this was the first time he has taken part in both outdoor events this season. In both of those events, he represented two of SPU’s top four rankings.
In the men’s triple jump, Njeri placed second with a distance of 15.18m. He lost to CSU Junior first-place winner Allam Bushara. Njeri was only less than a meter from Bushara’s distance of 15.23m. Njeri also placed third in the men’s long jump with a distance of 6.93m. Both distances were new personal bests for Njeri.
The last event in which the Falcons placed in the top three was the women’s 4×100 relay race. The team consisted of senior sprinter Vanessa Aniteye, senior sprinter and jumper Peace Igbonagwam, senior sprinter Jenna Bouyer and sophomore Aniya Green.
The four-woman relay team finished second to the winning team from San Jose State University with a time of 46.70 seconds. This same group of women also competed in the 4×400 relay race, but fell just short of the top three and placed fourth with a time of 3:45.91.
This time was the first time SPU had clocked a sub-3:50.00 time in the 4×400 since 2018.
These two races were not the end of a relay member’s accomplishments. Aniteye then ran the 400 meters with a final time that earned her a place in the SPU record books. It would be his first 400-meter race and first SPU record as a Falcon since transferring from the University of Alaska to Anchorage in the 2021-22 winter season.
Aniteye finished the race with a time of 54.60 seconds. She broke the school’s previous 400-meter record of 54.68 set by Jahzelle Ambus on April 30, 2016, by eight hundredths of a second. His time was also one of six provisional NCAA marks set by SPU during the competition. All three of his runs were included in SPU’s NCAA draft scores for the weekend.
Esvelt and sophomore Ellie Rising are the other two Falcons to earn provisional NCAA grades after their runs. Rising placed seventh in the 800 meters with a new personal best of 2:11.83.
The Falcons’ next meeting is in Tacoma, Washington at the Pacific Lutheran University Invitational on Saturday, April 9.
The SPU rowing team had a busy day on Saturday, April 2, as the team competed in two different meets in two different states. While most of the team traveled 2,555 miles to Sarasota, Fla. to compete in the Florida Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta, a crew of novice rowers stayed to compete in the Husky Invitational in Seattle hosted by the University of Washington.
Freshman rowers took on two experienced crews from the University of Puget Sound and Seattle University in the Third Varsity/Novice Eight race on the Montlake Cut. SPU placed third in the race led by first-year coxswain Sara Mach with a time of 8:08.27.
On the other side of the United States, the other members of the SPU crew prepare their boats for flights on Cooper Creek in Sarasota, Florida. The Falcons competed in the Varsity Eights and Varsity Fours before splitting their varsity eight crew into two boats to compete in two more varsity four races.
In the Varsity Eights, the Falcons placed third out of seven teams behind second-place Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and first-place Barry University with a time of 6:47.96. This boat was steered by senior rower LeeAnn Arrington from the helmsman’s seat.
The Falcons placed third for the second time Saturday in the Varsity Fours with a time of 7:58.29. Embry-Riddle took first place bypassing previous Varsity Eights winner Barry, who took second place.
The Falcon’s top four-oar crew also competed in another race. Although the times were not on the final results, SPU took the win and beat Embry-Riddle by a very slim margin in the final seconds of the race.
When the Varsity Eight team split their crew and competed in the Varsity Fours “B” race, the crew took a decisive victory over Embry-Riddle, Florida University and New College of Florida with a time of 7:35.29. This team consisted of rowers Danielle Johnson, Natalie Korolenko, Jacinta Grandel, Kalais Samuelson and coxswain Jessica Vester.
The other half of the Varsity Eights crew competed in the final race of the day and placed fourth with a final time of 7:46.06. This crew included rowers Megan Popielak, Macie Leach, Elise Arkills, Hannah Miller and coxswain Arrington.
The Falcons next face off Saturday, April 9 at home on the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Seattle against rivals Cal Poly Humboldt and Western Washington University.