This article originally appeared in ZU News.
The Azusa Pacific track and field team attended their first invitational of the season, the Dr. Martin Luther King Invitational in New Mexico on Jan. 19-20. The team had seven athletes qualify for indoor nationals provisionally and several others set personal bests in their respective events.
“I thought it went really well. There were quite a few athletes that got personal bests, or indoor bests, or just started off where we want them to start off,” head coach Jack Hoyt said. “In indoor season, we really focus on having qualifying marks for nationals, or if they’re not at that level, building through indoors to get to outdoors. It was really good to see how they compete and I was really happy with it.”
Of the seven athletes that qualified for nationals, six were infield events. Senior Miles Poullard qualified in the high jump with a jump of 2.07m / 6′-9½”. Senior James Jones set a personal best and qualified in the shotput with a throw of 17.86m / 58′-7¼”.
“James had five throws right in the same area showing great consistency. Those throws will also get him to indoor nationals,” Hoyt said. “Every meet we go to, we’re just trying to get one or two more people on that plane. Those are two of the people that we’re really looking forward to having lead the team as seniors and national qualifiers.”
On the women’s side, freshmen Nicole Warwick qualified in the long jump with a jump of 5.77m/18′-11¼”. This jump put her in 10th place nationally and sixth in APU track history. Sophomore Olivia Nash qualified in the triple jump at 11.88m / 38′-11¾”. This places her eighth nationally. Senior Cyinna Booker also qualified in the triple jump at 11.65m / 38′-2¾”. Senior Jacky Chasteler qualified in the weight throw with a throw of 18.41m / 60′-5″.
“We were really happy with that, for her to qualify right out of the gate on that throw. It was a beauty,” Hoyt said.
The only APU athlete to qualify for nationals on the track side was senior Richard Finical in the 400-meter dash with a time of 48.37 seconds, which placed him fifth overall in the event.
“The meet went good for me and I’m happy with the times I opened up with. It felt really good to finally get back on the track and compete again,” Finical said. “The whole team really went out there and performed great. A lot of our girls and guys were able to either post PR’s or put up marks close to their PR’s, which is crazy because it’s the first meet of the year. I’m really excited to see how our team will compete throughout the year.”
Sophomore Joshua Cantong also represented the cougars in the 400-meter dash, finishing 16th overall with a time of 50.20 seconds, and the 600-meter dash, finishing 17th overall with a time of 1:22.45.
“I think with a season opener, and especially an indoor season opener, the expectation is to get out there and compete and shake off the off-season rust and just to become more acclimated to the upcoming competition we’ll see as we go further into the spring. Time standards and meet goals tend to be more weighted for meets at the end of the year compared to opening meets. But even taking that into account we had a pretty solid trip,” Cantong said. “As an individual, I see a successful meet as one in which I stay healthy and run fast. And I did that! I was able to work on fine tuning my pre-race visualization routine and my race strategies.”
Cantong said that he is looking forward to trying to break his PR’s in the 400-meter dash and the 800-meter dash, as well as compete in the 4×400-meter dash relay. APU did not have a team compete in the 4×400 for this invitational.
“The team is looking pretty solid. For the success we experienced, we’ll build on in the coming months—and for our individuals who didn’t hit their expectations, we’ll use that as motivation and as a reference point to see where we can improve in the future,” Cantong said. “It’s very early but I think the train is going in a good direction.”
The Cougars will compete this weekend at the University of Washington Invitational on Jan. 26-27.
“There are a few people that we’re really excited about trying to qualify for nationals there. They have a pentathlon and our new freshmen, Nicole Warwick, gets her shot in trying to qualify in that. She did a great job this last weekend in her first college meet ever. Her first high jump was a personal best and everything was an indoor best because she had never done indoor before. She had four events between Friday and Saturday,” Hoyt said.
This is Hoyt’s first year at APU. He previously served at the associate head coach for UCLA’s track team for five years, the jump/throws coach at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for six years, the head coach at Seattle Pacific for seven years and as an assistant coach at Seattle Pacific before that.
“APU has been great, the best job I’ve ever had. There are really hard working athletes that are easy to coach, really friendly people. They’re also really trying to improve in their skills,” Hoyt said. “I really enjoy working with the team. They all had great attitudes on the trip. We had to rush around a little bit to make our flights. Our flight was delayed on Thursday night, so we ended up not getting to the hotel until about 3 a.m. I never heard any complaints and it was just an amazing group to work with. I think it’s setting us up for being a team who enjoys being together and competing and performing well.”
The team will compete in the University of Washington Invitational on Jan. 26-27 and the Colorado University Open on Feb. 1-3.