With 27 All-Region selections, 11 national qualifiers, one national champion, and countless achievements along the way, the University of Redlands men's and women's track & field teams enjoyed an unforgettable season during the 2017 campaign. As a team, the Bulldog women finished second among the highly-competitive Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), while the Redlands men took fifth in the standings. However, the year was sprinkled with endless highlights that extended well beyond the conference into a national presence with a top-10 ranking by season's end.
The indoor portion of the season kicked off at the Mountain T's Invitational in Arizona, where the Bulldogs established the tone for a remarkable campaign with outstanding marks in early February. Among them, freshmen Mykel Campos (Dinuba, CA) and Cooper Adamo (Bakersfield, CA) impressed as rookie competitors by taking second (22' 4 ½") and third (22' 3 ¾"), respectively, in the Long Jump. Junior Mandy Widen (Vail, AZ) continued her previous success in the Pole Vault with a season-opening height of 11' 5 ¾" to finish third in the meet.
The Maroon and Gray returned to Arizona about two weeks later to take on a high-quality field of student-athletes at the NAU Tune-Up Meet. Senior Alison Smith (McKinleyville, CA) and freshman Jessica Fields (Las Vegas, NV) lined up for the 60-meter Hurdles and blew past most competitors, which included some NCAA Division I sprinters. Smith sped through the hurdles and clocked an impressive time of 8.87 seconds for third place. With this time in the books, Smith landed tied-for-second in all of NCAA Division III for the indoor season. Fields closely followed for fifth place with a time of 9.05 seconds.
Following the indoor portion of the season, Redlands earned 13 All-Region awards from the U.S. Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). Smith collected a team-high three awards, earning the honor for the 60 Hurdles, Pentathlon, and Shot Put. Sophomore Kara Romani (Sacramento, CA) added two All-Region nods (Long Jump, Pentathlon) to her résumé, while junior Vanessa Blanchard (Palmdale, CA), freshman Chyenne Kimble (Big Bear Lake, CA), Widen, and Fields completed the recipients for the women's team. The Bulldog men were represented by junior hurdler Afari La-Anyane (Morgan Hill, CA), sophomore Luke Bohlinger (200 Meters; Mercer Island, WA), Campos (Long Jump), and Adamo (Long Jump).
The month of March kicked off with the opening SCIAC Multi-Dual Meet at Pomona-Pitzer Colleges. The Bulldog teams each prevailed over Whittier College, Chapman University, and Pomona-Pitzer in a solid outing. The Redlands women notched five first-place results, seven second-place marks, and eight third-place showings in an impressive day. The Bulldog men posted eight winning performances, five second-place finishes, and three third-place efforts. Among the many highlights of the meet, Fields won the 400 Hurdles with a season-best time of 64.34, as Romani took third with a career-best time of 67.57. Romani also leaped to a season-best mark of 17' 11" in the Long Jump to take home the gold. The 4x100 Relay of junior Sophie Brooks (Seattle, WA), senior Jasmine Ramos (Santa Fe Springs, CA), Kimble, and Smith crossed the finish line first with a winning time of 48.61. For the men, senior Myles Speegle (Castro Valley, CA) and Bohlinger teamed up for a great 1-2 punch in the 100 Meters. Speegle prevailed with a time of 10.92, as Bohlinger quickly followed in 10.94 for the fastest time of his career. The pair traded places in the 200, with Bohlinger winning this one in 22.48, while Speegle completed the race in 22.56. Finally, sophomore Matthew Hayashi (Hacienda Heights, CA) recorded a pair of gold-medal and career-best heaves in the Shot Put (45' 9 ¼") and Hammer Throw (142' 3").
The Bulldogs put together a strong showing at the Oxy Distance Carnival & Sprint Festival, with senior Abhinav Nagpal (Cypress, CA) headlining the 1500 Meters with a time of 4:06.75. In addition, junior Kaylee Jorgensen (Claremont, CA) and senior Jessika Snincsak (Rancho Cucamonga, CA) produced their respective season-best times in the 800 Meters (2:17.05) and 10K (39:13.02).
That same weekend, Smith successfully represented Redlands at the NCAA Division III Indoor Championships in Naperville, Illinois. She uncorked a lifetime best of 8.71 in the preliminary race of the 60 Hurdles to advance to the final, where she fired off a similar time of 8.73 to take home fourth place for All-America honors. She joined her cousin Maddie Smith '15 among the Bulldogs' recipients of this indoor honor.
On March 17, the Maroon and Gray had the pleasure of hosting the Redlands Invitational on Ashel Cunningham Track in Ted Runner Stadium. With excitement and energy, the Bulldogs compiled outstanding results in multiple events, as highlighted by the women's 4x100 Relay that scorched the school record. The talented quartet of Brooks, Kimble, Ramos, and Smith ran a blistering time of 47.70 to not only win the race but improve upon the Bulldogs' standard by 0.60 in an impressive feat. Furthermore, freshman Maliq Champion (Beaumont, CA) cleared a winning height of 6' 6 ½" in only his second meet of his young college career to rank third among NCAA Division III this season.
A week later, the USTFCCCA announced that the Bulldog women's track & field team broke into the national poll for the outdoor season at No. 24.
This outstanding success helped propel both squads into the SCIAC Multi-Dual Meet No. 2, which also took place at their home facility. Under pristine conditions, the Bulldogs put on a display of career-bests and top national marks en route to defeating the University of La Verne and Caltech in fine fashion. Smith fired off the fastest time in NCAA Division III for the 100 Hurdles when she crossed the finish line in 14.17. In addition, she ran anchor on the winning 4x100 Relay that upped the ante on the school record while ranking second in the nation. She joined Kimble, Ramos, and Romani for a formidable foursome that clocked a 47.38 race. In addition, Jorgensen uncorked the fastest 400 time of the season for the Bulldogs by completing the lap in 60.66. For the men, sophomore Nick Burchett (Gold River, CA) and Speegle combined for five first-place finishes in an amazing showing. They joined Champion and junior Coleton Fitzgerald (Spokane, WA) for an incredible 4x100 Relay that posted the 14th-fastest time in the nation at 42.30. Burchett also won the 400 Meters with a time of 48.77 to rank fifth in NCAA Division III before running the ninth-best time in the country in the 400 Hurdles at 54.59. Speegle surged past the competition in the 100 (11.07) and 200 (22.38) for a pair of first-place showings as well.
For her efforts during the SCIAC Multi-Dual Meet No. 2, Smith was named the SCIAC Women's Track & Field Athlete of the Week.
During the Jim Click Shoot Out at the University of Arizona, the impressive marks continued for the Bulldogs, as Smith, Romani, and Kimble took on high-quality competition in the Heptathlon. Smith reset the Redlands record with 4,799 points while also eclipsing the top of the national rankings. Her time of 14.12 in the 100 Hurdles further improved upon the fastest showing in Division III for the second week in a row, while her leap of 17' 3 ¾" in the Long Jump ranked as a career-best effort. Beyond that, Romani posted the best score of her young career at 4,302 points while Kimble made her debut in the Heptathlon with 3,758 points.
The trend of career-best marks continued at the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational in early April, with Jorgensen tallying her fastest time in the 1500 at 4:44.54. Champion improved upon his best in the High Jump by clearing a height of 6' 6' ¾". Sophomore Benjamin Casey (Highland Park, IL) uncorked a time of 4:00.20 in the 1500 for the Bulldogs' best showing of the season in this event.
A week later, Redlands faced off against Cal Lutheran University, Occidental College, and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges in the final SCIAC Multi-Dual Meet of the season. The women topped the Regals and the Tigers while narrowly falling to the Athenas. The Bulldog men prevailed over CLU but came up short against the other opponents by a combined 16 points between them. Blanchard posted the best mark of her career when she cleared a height of 5' 7" in the High Jump to win that event and move up to third in the nation. Freshman Gabi Gould (Bellingham, WA) and Widen provided a solid combination in the Pole Vault by taking second and third, respectively. Gould registered the best mark of her first season at 12' 0", as Widen cleared a solid height of 11' 6 ¼". Speegle represented the Bulldog men well by winning the 100 in 10.86 before finishing third in the 200 with the team's fastest time of the season at 21.75 to rank among the top-20 in Division III. Freshman Alieu Corr (Banul, Gambia) put together a solid outing in the throwing events with a pair of career-best heaves in the Discus (131' 3") and Hammer Throw (143' 7") to win both events.
The Bulldogs finished off a strong April with the SCIAC Championships, as the women took second and the men finished fifth during the two days of exciting competition. Blanchard nabbed the Maroon and Gray's first individual title of the meet when she won the High Jump with a height of 5' 3 ¾". Smith followed that up by defending her title in the 100 Hurdles with a conference-meet record time of 14.20. She also ran the fastest 100-meter time (12.17) of the season for the Bulldogs in her second-place showing. La-Anyane won the 110 Hurdles with an impressive time of 15.26, while Burchett ran a blistering, career-best time of 53.44 for first place in the 400 Hurdles. Senior Sam Yaeger (Mission Viejo, CA) recorded his third career-best mark of the campaign in the throwing events, with this one coming in the Shot Put at 46' 3 ¼". In addition, the Bulldogs collected a total of 19 All-SCIAC awards for finishing in the top three of the final results of the conference championships.
Despite the conclusion of the SCIAC season, Redlands was far from done with the 2017 campaign, as various members headed to the Oxy Invite on May 6. Among the highlights, Snincsak continued to improve upon her career-best time in the 5000 Meters by completing the race in 18:20.14. The men's 4x100 Relay of Bohlinger, Burchett, Champion, and Speegle fired off a season-best time of 41.54 to rank 15th in the country.
Highlighting the teams' performance at the All-on-the-Line Westmont Open, Burchett improved his national position in the 400 Hurdles with a time of 53.30, which placed him 12th in all of NCAA Division III in 2017. Gould continued to climb the ladder on her Pole Vault results with a high-quality mark of 12' ½", which landed her second all-time in Redlands history.
Finally, the Maroon and Gray hosted the Redlands Final Qualifier in mid-May with hopes of moving up the national rankings or breaking into the qualifying list for the NCAA Outdoor Championships. By the end of the two-day meet, there was no doubt that the last-chance opportunity was successful. Smith uncorked the fastest 100-hurdle time of her career at 13.86 to move atop the NCAA Division III rankings for the season. Fields joined her in the blistering race that included Olympians and world-class athletes, and fired off a career-best time of 14.55. Kimble cranked out the Maroon and Gray's fastest 200 of the season at 25.31. Ta'amu also climbed the national rankings in the Shot Put with her much-improved heave of 48' 1 ¼" to not only win the event but to reset the school and stadium records. This incredible toss propelled her to fourth in the nation as an eventual qualifier for the NCAAs. The men's 4x100 Relay of Bohlinger, Burchett, Speegle, and Champion impressed with another season-best time of 41.07 to significantly rise in the national rankings to sixth. Bohlinger added to the excitement by unleashing the fastest Bulldog time of the season in the 100 Meters at 10.64, which landed him 16th in Division III. Furthermore, Pannabecker recorded a season-best leap of 46' 11 ½" in the Triple Jump to break into the Redlands Top-10 List.
The official announcement came just two days later, as the NCAA invited 11 Bulldogs to compete in the national meet in Geneva, OH. Smith headlined the group as a competitor in three events for her fourth NCAA appearance and third at the outdoor championships. She was joined by Fields (100 Hurdles), Kimble, Ramos, Romani (4x100 Relay), Blanchard (High Jump), and Ta'amu (Shot Put). For the men, Burchett qualified for the 400 Hurdles and teamed up with Bohlinger, Speegle, and Champion for the 4x100 Relay. Bohlinger was also selected to compete in the 100 Meters.
Just prior to the NCAA Outdoor Championships, it was announced that the Redlands women rocketed up the USTFCCCA Division III rankings to No. 10 in the nation. The team had steadily climbed up the top-25 poll throughout the year, culminating in this high position in the final regular-season ranking.
In addition, the squads learned of their All-Region awards, which included 11 for the men and 16 for the women in an outstanding representation of the track & field program at Redlands. Smith reeled in a team-high four accolades (100 Hurdles, Heptathlon, 100 Meters, and 4x100 Relay). The Bulldogs' award-winning quartet also included Kimble, Romani, and Ramos. Kimble (200 Meters, 100 Hurdles) and Ramos (200 Meters, 100 Meters) each added two individual awards, while Romani received the honor for the Heptathlon. Blanchard (High Jump), Fields (100 Hurdles), Gould (Pole Vault), and Ta'amu (Shot Put) also received an All-Region nod. For the men, the 4x100 Relay of Bohlinger, Burchett, Champion, and Speegle collected an award, while Bohlinger and Speegle also gained the honor in the 100 Meters. Burchett (400 Hurdles), La-Anyane (110 Hurdles), Champion (High Jump), and Pannabecker (Triple Jump) joined them among the honorees.
On the final day of the three-day national meet, Smith captured the individual national championship in the 100 Hurdles. Despite competing in the Heptathlon and 4x100 Relay prior to her hurdle final, she ran the only sub-14-second time of the race when she crossed the finish line in 13.98. She moved from fourth to first in the final half of the short distance with an incredible kick in the last 10 meters. In addition to the national title, Smith became an All-American in the event to cap off an already-outstanding, four-year career with the Maroon and Gray. Smith also anchored the 4x100 Relay that eked out an All-America time of 48.09 with an eighth-place showing in the national final. She combined efforts with Romani, Kimble, and Ramos for a stellar performance and successful showing at the NCAA Championships. In the Heptathlon, Smith finished ninth out of 22 competitors with a grand total of 4,545 points.
Although the competitive season was complete, the awards kept rolling in for the Maroon and Gray, as Blanchard represented Redlands on the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District Track & Field/Cross Country Team. In addition, she was one of seven women to receive the USTFCCCA All-Academic Award for individuals. Smith, Widen, Romani, Ramos, Brooks, and Gould also gained this distinction. Bohlinger and Pannabecker represented the men's team among the individual honorees. Overall, each squad also met the requirements to be named a USTFCCCA All-Academic Team.
With incredible success at every turn, the 2017 Bulldog track & field program excelled in the classroom and in competition, as illustrated by various awards, school records, top-10 times, and career-best marks. Although the Bulldogs must say goodbye to a talented class of seniors, the program holds high hopes for continued acceleration into a prolific future under the direction of Head Coach Mike Schmidt.