The Chaparral track and field team reaffirmed their progress on the track as they finished strong in the regional championship at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Ill. Both the men’s and women’s team finished second place overall.
Matt Wilhite, in his second season as head track and field coach, says the talent level has increased in recent seasons. In five years, the team moved from Division III category up to Division I in the NJCAA.
The team is expected to send its top athletes to the NJCAA Division I championship in Mesa, Ariz. Freshman Pat Niyork, who broke the COD record in the 5K race, placed fourth in the country. Chris James also broke a school record in the 110 hurdles and placed sixth in the country.
20 additional Chaparrals gained a spot at the national meet after the winning big in Jacksonville, Ill. In the throwing category, Crist Brenner got the top spot in discus and hammer throw and Ian Welsh earned a spot in shot put. On the women’s side, Monica Smith won in shot put and hammer throw.
Catherine Villa and Monica Byrne will also join the national meet. Villa competed in the 400 meter hurdles. Byrne ran the 1500 meter race and helped her teammates gain a nationals spot in the 4×800 meter relay.
“It makes me excited,” Wilhite commented on the athletes’ successes. “It gives enthusiasm, especially at the end of the season, and it gives an outlook of what we can do in the future.”
Already looking ahead to next season, Wilhite hopes returning cross country and track athletes will progress in their sport. The coach also wants to continue the team’s success by enlisting qualified newcomers.
“Leading into next year, we will continue to recruit high-caliber, motivated and dedicated student athletes,” Wilhite said.