As the NCAA distance track season approaches, some runners at California Baptist University have turned their attention from the cross country course to the track.
Those runners on the Lancer men’s and women’s track teams will look to carry over success from the fall cross country season, in which both the men and women took home their fourth straight PacWest Conference Championships.
“We’d like just to build on that,” said Dr. Ben Gall, head coach of distance track. “We can have well over 10 athletes qualify (for the national meet) which, in terms of distance runners, would be probably the most in the country if we were to do that.”
In addition to PacWest championships, Gall outlined the team’s goals for the spring 2018 season.
“We’re at a point where our program, from the fastest runner to the back end, everyone is currently improving and healthy so we want to continue to see that,” Gall said.
William Ernst, junior computer science major, said, “We’re going to potentially have quite a few people able to qualify for nationals. Last year, we had a few guys in that range but this year we have double that.”
Gall said the standouts for this track season will be the same athletes that stood out in the fall cross country season.
This season, the men’s team will be without recent graduate, Valentin Robert, who competed in the steeplechase final at the NCAA National Championships last year. Gall said there are runners who have the potential to fill Robert’s shoes.
“In terms of that specific event, we’ve got a couple guys,” Gall said. “But in terms of just leadership and probably the guy who’s going to excel at the highest level is probably McMarshall Hartzenburg” who is a freshman psychology major.
On the women’s side, Gall pointed out several returners who could continue to build on their success, including Annett Somogyi, sophomore nutrition and food sciences major.
“She’s significantly better than she was (last year), so she’ll be in contention,” Gall said. “Best case scenario: trying to win a national title, but certainly somewhere in that area.”
Katie Deimling, senior nursing major, laid out the goals for the women’s distance track team this season.
“Having quite a few of us make it to the national meet and then hopefully get quite a few to get All-American and place,” Deimling said.
When asked about transitioning a Division II track team to Division I competition, Gall said it might be a bit easier for track than other athletic teams.
“Nationally, at the Divison I level, we’ve got a little way to go, but conference-wise, we have a good team,” Gall said. “We’re going to be competitive (in the Western Athletic Conference) right away.”
Deimling said the graduating seniors have to help prepare the younger athletes for the Division I years ahead.
“With all of us leaving, we’ve set a good example of what to expect and how to prepare for something exciting like that,” Deimling said.
With the Lancers ineligible for postseason competition next season, Ernst emphasized the need to have success in the final year of Division II championship eligibility.
“It’s still going to be serious training (next year),” Ernst said. “But without the nationals part, we’re putting more focus on this year than next year.”