California Baptist University’s track and field will showcase their 2015-2016 Pacific Western Conference Track Athletes of the year, Valentin Robert, senior business administration major, and Berenice Cleyet-Merle, junior psychology major, for the 2017 season.
Ben Gall, head coach, said last season was one of the best seasons the team has had and wants to continue building on the team’s recent progress.
“We had the most D-II national qualifiers in school history last year and the most All-Americans, so people are excited to build on that momentum,” Gall said. “We have at least two athletes who were All-Americans last year who have a real shot at winning the NCAA championships if everything goes well — Cleyet-Merle in the 1,500-meter and Robert in the Steeplechase.”
Gall said the rest of the team feeds off the competitive nature and builds confidence in their future achievements.
“One big difference this year is a lot more people are believing they have a realistic shot to advance all the way to the NCAA championships than in years past,” Gall said.
Gall said the teams achievements thus far have brought excitement to the season ahead.
“We are coming off (what is) arguably the best cross country season in school history and that has caused a sense of excitement heading into the track season,” Gall said. “They are antsy about racing soon; they are not used to having such a long layoff between competitions.”
As for other runners, Gall said there are key runners to watch who have the best chances of making the national meet in May.
Katie Deimling, junior pre-nursing major, Annett Somogyi, freshman nutrition major, Caroline Barkechir, senior nursing major, and Emiline Delanis, sophmore buisness administration major, are a number of women runners Gall said to look out for this season.
For the men’s side, Dennis Messmer, sophomore undeclared major, Duncan Perillat Amede, senior business administration major, Mirco Zenzen, junior buisness administration major, Will Ernst, sophomore computer science major, and Ken Kipkorir, sophomore undeclared major, were a few of the runners mentioned.
Barkechir said CBU has helped strengthen her faith and cultural worldview and has helped her become a better athlete. She said it has helped her set higher goals for herself.
“My 2017 goal is to improve what I have done in the last three years and get the best out of this season since it is my last,” Barkechir said.
Gall said the team’s goal for 2017 is to learn from past seasons to improve this season’s outcome.
“We would like to improve on our team finish from the PacWest Championships last spring, qualify more student-athletes for the NCAA Championships and have more individual PacWest champions,” Gall said. “Mostly, though, just work on continually improving for each athlete and the positive results should follow.”
Kipkorir said he has higher hopes for this season’s younger athletes because he sees a lot more talent and experience.
“Last year our team was mostly underclassmen and a few upperclassmen and the upperclassmen were the ones who made it to nationals,” Kipkorir said. “This year there is more experience, so the younger guys should be able to step up and do better than last year.”
Kipkorir said the bond between the team members has grown stronger.
“We all get along and there is no division among us, even though we all come from different places,” Kipkorir said. “Most of us will come together after classes or even weights and eat as a team.”
The team will travel to California State-San Marcos Feb.25 to kickstart the season for their first invitational.