Bruins hope to surprise at track & field national championships
Prior to the season, members of the George Fox women's track team got together to eat pizza, watch movies and set some individual and collective goals.
As far-out as some of those goals felt at the time, most have been accomplished over the season.
That includes sweeping the men's and women's team titles at the Northwest Conference Championships, an ever-growing list of new school records and top-10 national rankings for both squads ahead of the NCAA Division III National Championships Thursday through Saturday in La Crosse, Wisc.
"We set goals for ourselves that we thought were really high and we've been hitting them and achieving them," senior Dakota Buhler said. "That's been really exciting and it's fun that we've all been doing it. There are so many people on our team that are having amazing seasons and it's even better that we're all doing it together at the same time."
Since conquering the conference meet, George Fox has stayed busy, with many of its top performers setting and re-setting school records week after week, helping push the Bruin women to No. 4 in the national rankings and the men to No. 7.
"It makes for this interesting May season because we're all done with school and we can just eat, sleep and breathe track," Buhler said. "It's so much fun. To not have to worry about school and finals and all these other things other schools are dealing with, we can zero in on track and on our team and helping each other."
That has resulted in a program-best 17 athletes qualifying for 16 total events at the NCAA Championships, fueling hope that the Bruins can make a run at the school's first-ever team trophy.
Buhler herself will be competing in the long jump and triple jump, with Sarah King also set to compete in a pair of individual events (200 and 400) while also teaming up with Lis Larsen, Kennedy Taube, Sara Turner and Megan Miller for the 4 x 100 relay.
"I'm definitely thinking All-American thoughts," Buhler said. "I've been indoor All-American, but never outdoor. That's definitely something out there that I'd like to hit."
Miller will also compete individually in the open 100, with Taube joining King in the 200. Stacy Kozlowski has qualified in the high jump and Annie Wright will look to bring home a national title in the heptathlon after placing runner-up last year.
On the men's side, the Bruins will also compete in the 4 x 100 relay, with freshman Brock Rogers filling out the quartet with Kenny May, Vernon Lott and Chris Polk due to an injury to former Newberg High School star Colin Hyatt.
Polk (400) and Lott (200) will also run individually, with defending javelin national champion Seth Nonnenmacher leading a strong contingent in the field. That includes Caleb Dalzell in the discus and another former NHS standout, Jacoby Wolfe, in the high jump.
Rounding out the group is Alex Canchola in the decathlon.
"We have so many more people qualified, which is just so exciting," Buhler said. "We're all prepared to surprise ourselves. I don't know, as athletes, if we've specifically thought through about getting this place or that score, but we're all aware there's a possibility of placing higher than we ever have before. We're excited about that and excited to surprise ourselves."