Friday, May 2, 2014

School Records are Meant to be Broken

The Saint Martin’s University track team lost a lot last season after Sam Washington graduated. Not only was Washington a GNAC champion, but he was also the only All-American on the team. This season, the Saints group of throwers is trying to do big things and have another one of their athletes earn the coveted All-American status. “We don’t have any All-Americans on this team. We don’t have any NCAA champions on this team and until we do I don’t think anyone in this group should be satisfied,” stated throwing coach Adam Midles.
With this in mind, don’t think the Saints are slacking by any imagination in the throwing events. A track meet in late April in California proved that what SMU has been working on all season is paying enormous dividends. Redshirt freshman Kalli Walker shattered the previous school record by 10 feet as her javelin throw sailed 150’-5”. To start the year off, her mark was 122’-8” after the first meet. But it isn’t just Walker improving. Angel Rodgers broke the hammer school record for a second time this season after her toss of 158’-10” flew three and a half feet further than the record she broke earlier in the season. It isn’t only the women showing improvement, the men have done their fair share as well. Freshman Mitch Wilkens had personal records of 47’-10” in the shot put and 141’-1” in the discus on April 26th. In the same meet, teammate Vincent Fualefau increased his mark in the hammer throw after a heave of 156’.
 KalliWalkeratSpokane14“Coach really stresses competitiveness with us,” said sophomore Ali Wick. Ali and her sister Ami would know best; they have been working with Midles for almost six years now after having him as a coach at Sheldon High School in Eugene, Oregon. “You have to be mentally tough. In practice he will continually push us to show us what it is like in a meet and if a situation arises where we get thrown off our game in the middle of a meet, then we will know how to respond to it appropriately,” added Wilkens. “One of the reasons we compete so much in practice is because we hope that if we do that and we compete with each other then we will be mentally tougher at the end of the day,” said Midles. An important reason for this constant push of competitiveness is because it allows the athlete to know how to personally get through it and overcome struggles.
Although the group of throwers might be excelling now, Midles noted that some pretty drastic changes were made when he and the new coaching staff arrived. “We wanted to be a group who was competitive on a national level and we didn’t want to settle for anything less than that.” One aspect that has allowed the coaching staff to have so much success is that amount of success they as coachers had themselves in the sport. Midles and all three of the volunteer coaches who focus on the throwers were NCAA All-Americans, including Washington who was hired this year to help the squad. Not many teams have a staff with a resume that could stack up to that.
MitchWilkens14GNACIndoor“Coach has a very solid plan,” said Ami Wick. “I competed against his players while I was at Willamette High School and when I came up here and saw what he did, it makes total sense how he was able to make a program such a power,” continued Wilkens. “A lot of what has happened really comes down to if the kids are buying in and executing on meet day. It’s when things get really intense and the pressure is on you can really tell who has bought in or not, and these kids have done a great job,” stated Midles.
With the Saint Martin’s home meet approaching this weekend and conference right around the corner, don’t be surprised to continue to see more school records fall. An important thing that the coaching staff has implemented to the team is that improvements should mostly happen in the last three weeks of the season, which when mentioned to the team brought up some laughs because they know what they have accomplished as a team. It isn’t just the ones mentioned here that have shown improvement from the beginning of the season, all of them have. You can look up and down the roster and stats and see PR’s being broken every week. “If you’re not motivated by constant improvement, you’re someone who gets easily satisfied, then you’re not someone who should be a NCAA student-athlete. You know it’s kind of hokey but there is the Adidas say ‘There is no finish line’ and it’s the same thing with college athletics. None of these guys should be satisfied yet. They should keep pushing themselves to be better students, be better athletes and better people,” claims Midles. Luckily for this group of student-athletes the finish line of school work and classes is almost complete, but the finish line for the track season is far from over.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Just a Saints Fan in California

This past week I was able to take a really fun trip to watch the Saint Martin’s University softball team play in the Tournament of Champions hosted by Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock, California. The reason I was able to go was because of the connection I have with one particular member of the team; Taviah Jenkins. Taviah, or Tav as most people call her is my sister, and my parents and I travelled down to go support her in the warm weather of California.

My trip started on Wednesday morning around 5:00 AM when my alarm went off in Castle Rock, Washington; my hometown. It is about an hour’s drive from my house to the Portland International Airport, however I don’t remember all of it because I slept for most of the ride. We flew out of Portland on Southwest Airlines with a direct flight to Sacramento. After receiving our not so cool Mazda 5 (it’s basically a small mini-van that is ugly), we were off to Marysville, California where Tav’s 74 year old grandma lived. We stayed at her house for one night to help her around the house and do some basic maintenance. It was really an enjoyable experience.

Once we left there, we drove straight to Modesto, California, which is about two hours south of Marysville. We stayed the night there and even got to go to In-N-Out for lunch which was quite good. But, Friday morning it was right to the field to watch the Saints take on Cal State Dominguez Hills, whom they defeated 8-3. SMU then took on Cal State University East Bay in a tight game that the Saints won by a score of 4-2. That night my dad and I had planned to make the hour and half trip north to Oakland to watch the Seattle Mariner take on the Oakland Athletics. Thankfully we didn’t go because traffic showed it would take almost 3 hours and the game was ultimately cancelled because of poor field conditions.

Saturday morning, SMU faced a familiar foe in Humboldt State at 11. The Saints weren’t able to muster any clutch hits and eventually fell the sixth ranked team in the nation 2-0. However the girls rebounded and defeated the tournament host, Cal State Stanislaus 9-3 before falling to Azusa Pacific University 10-3. The Stanislaus game was my favorite to watch because the Saints really put a whole game together, both hitting and defense wise. I also enjoyed watching Tav go 3-4 at the plate with a double off the wall.

Sunday was bracket play for SMU as they got the very early 9:00 AM game against San Francisco State University. The game went extra innings and was decided when Dani Wall hit a double over the center fielder’s head that scored Tav. Two batters later, Mary Dettling did the same thing that scored Wall. Sadly, I wasn’t able to watch the final game at 2:30 because my family and I had to head back to the airport to catch our return flight home. In the championship game of the Bronze Bracket, SMU faced Stanislaus again and narrowly escaped with a 2-0 victory. The Saints scored two runs in the third after Megan Miller scored because Dani Wall walked and Jackie Schmaeling’s sacrifice fly that scored Sam Munger.

All in all, it was a great trip. I really enjoyed spending time with my parents and getting to meet Tav’s grandma. The Saints getting a few wins was an added bonus, along with the sun and 70 degree weather, but I don’t want to rub it in. Ok so maybe I do. Either way, I had a really great time and I hope I get the opportunity to go back next year.


Monday, March 31, 2014

20 Questions with a Saint

The Saint Martin's University track program is currently on the rise and in full outdoor swing as of a few weeks ago. One of the most successful portions of the track program has been the "throwers," who have carried their continuous skills and improvement from indoor to outdoor season. A key member of that particular squad is redshirt freshman Kirby Neal. Neal, who hails from Coos Bay, Oregon is an alumni from Marshfield High School. Along with being a member of the Track and Field program, the civil engineering major was also a member of the SMU volleyball for the last two seasons. However, this Spring, Neal might have found her niche outside on the track. At the Lewis and Clark Spring Break Open she broke her own personal record, while also winning the shot put event with a throw of 40'-9.50. Going back to the indoor season, she has gained almost six whole feet of improvement in the shot put, while adding seven and half feet in the discus. With that in mind, let's take a second to get to know Kirby Neal.   

1. What is one item you always take with you on the road?

  • A book
2. If there was a movie about your life, who would star as you?

  • Zoey Deschanel
3. Name one fear that people might not know about you.

  • I’m afraid of spiders
4. Who is the biggest jokester/prankster on the team?

  • Mitch Wilkins
5. What is one thing you wish you knew how to do?

  • Sing
6. What is your most prized possession of no value?

  • My Michael Phelps poster
7. What is the hardest class you have ever taken?

  • Mechanics of Materials
8. If you could eat at any fast food restaurant right now, where would it be?

  • Taco Bell
9. What is your nickname?

  • Kirbina
10. When not at practice, where can you most likely to be found?

  • My dorm room
11. What is one of your biggest pet peeves?

  • People clicking their pens
12.What one TV show do you watch that would surprise others?

  • Survivor

13. What was your first job?

  • Lifeguard
14. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

  • Cookie Dough
15. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?

  • My mother (Karen)

16. Most embarrassing athletic moment.

  • I’ve tripped plenty of times. Too many to recall.
17. What is your first memory you have playing your sport?

  • I basically just said one day  in high school “I’m going to do track.”

18. What is one of your pre-match rituals or routines?

  • To listen to music and eat Goldfish
19. Who is your favorite professor you have had at SMU?

  • Dr. Parker
20. What is the reason you decided to come to SMU?

  • It is a good engineering school and it is close to home.



Thursday, February 27, 2014

Senior Night

This week the Saint Martin’s University men’s basketball team will conclude their season with two homes games this Thursday and Saturday. Along with the final games of the season, it will also be the final time five Saints will play at Marcus Pavilion as a member of the team. This year’s seniors include a rather interesting group of guys because of their backgrounds and how they became Saints. Here are my firsthand accounts of these four other guys, where I hope to give a little behind the scenes look at who they are and how they have been as teammates.

Let’s start with the man I know best on the team, Matt Dodson. Matt and I have been not only teammates for five years, but we have been roommates as well. During this span, I have seen Matt develop not only on the court but off the court as well. Even with some injuries along the way, he has developed into a solid post in the conference and has been with me every step of the way. Thinking back over our time together, I have a ton of memories that stand out that are quite funny. I’ve basically been by Matt’s side every day for the last five years and one of my favorite times with Matt was up at Anchorage last season when I got to play with him and former Saint Eric Taylor. The three of us had been roommates for two years and friends since the day we all met on campus in August of 2009. During our time together, this was the only time that all three of us were on the court at the same time and the only time Matt ever made a three-pointer in a game. Although everyone in the gym that night saw his foot over the line, the refs happened to miss it and he still claims to this day to never have missed a three in his career.

The second senior is Rei Jensen who transferred from Mount Hood Community College two years ago. Rei is one of the easiest guys I have ever met to get along with, which is probably why he has developed into one of my best friends on the team during his time here as a Saint. Something that comes to mind when I think of Rei is all the times we spent shooting together before practice. Last season we would always start practice with a simple shooting drill and Rei and I were always partners. During this time, Rei and I developed a strong bond and still continue to shoot with one another before practice. The story that first comes to mind involving Rei happened last week in Fairbanks, Alaska. We got our keys to the hotel and I was supposed to be rooming with Riley Carel, but Riley wanted to room with Lucas Shannon. So I traded with Lucas and was with Evan Coulter, but Rei wanted to room with me and he was with Tyler Idowu. I didn’t really care who I was with but Rei told Evan he would trade him roommates so he could be with me. Instead of telling him he was rooming with Tyler, he said he was with Ryan Rogers and Evan agreed. When Evan got to his room, he finally realized the scheme and saw he wasn’t rooming with Ryan. To an outsider it might not be that funny, but to us it was hilarious because of the vast differences between rooming with Tyler and Ryan.

Next up, Brad Norman. I won’t give too much background about Brad because I already did a 20 questions article about him earlier in the season, but I will say that playing with Brad over the past four years has been a pleasure. Brad is one of the hardest working guys I have ever been on the court with and I don’t think anyone has ever questioned his effort. I’ve never seen Brad slack off in anything and I think he has developed a reputation as one of the best teammates in the Saints program. What I will miss most about Brad are his quick one-liners and random movie quotes he throws out. I have never met someone who can come up with so many funny things out of nowhere that can make an entire team laugh almost every time.

The final senior is Evan Coulter who transferred to SMU from Whatcom Community College two years ago. I didn’t know Evan all that well last year but this season we have spent a lot of time together on the court. This is mostly because we guard one another every day at practice. When the plays stop at practice, Evan and I are usually talking about something; whether it’s a good move he just made, or making fun of something funny someone just did, we are always talking. If I think back I can recall the first time I met Evan at a summer game up at Bellevue Community College. He undoubtedly had the best beard I have ever seen and it looked exactly like James Harden’s who plays professionally for the Oklahoma City Thunder. So after I saw him play all I could think was “Not only does this guy have a sweet beard, but he is good too!” Much like Brad, Evan is also one of the hardest working guys I have ever played with. Evan's personality is also great because he is able to go from intense to calm faster than anyone, which makes him a good guy to be around.

With these little tid-bits in mind I hope everyone is able to understand the type of bond that the basketball team has. I think one thing that tends to be overlooked with sports in college is the relationships that we as teammates build because that is one aspect of the game you can really never get back. We might have all come from different areas of the Northwest, but we all cam here for a common goal and developed a friendship along the way. You can always join a city league team, or go shoot out in the drive way, but most people will never be able to experience being on the road for five days with 12 other guys in places like Hawaii, Montana, or California just to name few. Of course the things that happen on the court are great, but the time we spend off the court was just as important.

With two more games left in the career of these four guys and myself, I know I can speak for all of them when I say it has been fun playing with one another and we can walk away with memories that will last a lifetime.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Defense Leading the Way for the Saints

After seeing some of the highlights of the past week’s NBA All-Star Game it was evident that defense wasn’t a high priority. In the game, the East squad defeated the West 163-155. Yes those scores are accurate. Following the high-flying game the head coach of the West was asked if during the game he asked his team to play defense. His response, “No.” Although it was an exhibition for the fans and the game doesn’t count against anyone’s record, it’s still amazing how defense is considered so valuable.

One of the oldest sayings in sports is “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.” For the most part, this holds true. Look at the Seattle Seahawks who just won the Super Bowl last month. They entered the game with the number one ranked defense in all of the NFL.

With this in mind, we can now shift our focus to the top ranked defense in the women’s portion of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The Saint Martin’s University  women are currently ranked number one in the conference in both scoring defense and field goal percentage defense. What this means is that the Saints are allowing the least amount of points per game to their opponents, while also not allowing anything easy for the opposing offense. After interviewing multiple players, one principle seemed to be the foundation of the team’s stifling “D.” Communication. One would think that getting players to talk would be an easy thing to do, but most coaches would tell you that isn’t true. “Communication is key for us because if we don’t talk, no one knows where to go,” stated sophomore Megan Wiedeman who is coming off her first career double-double last weekend. Even with great communication there must be a certain level of trust between the players. Knowing that it’s just not one main person to turn to and we can go to anyone makes us worker harder on defense. Anyone can have a good defensive game and everyone tries to contribute on defense,” added senior Chelsea Haskey who is the team’s leading rebounder, averaging seven boards per game.                               

But, defense of this caliber doesn’t just come out of nowhere. It must be developed and stressed over the course of a season. “We’re a disciplined team and we know what we need to do. We practice a lot of defense at practice so it has become easier to us,” noted Wiedeman. “By having such great team defense, we are able to rotate a number of different players in (to the game) which gives the opponents a different guarding style,” said sophomore Ciara Pedroni.

After being preseason selected to finish eighth by other GNAC coaches, the Saints are currently tied for fifth with four games remaining in the regular season. “I think we’ve always been kind of an underestimated team and this just shows that we are better than other coaches think. If other people think that we aren’t going to come out and play hard that’s fine, we’ll prove them wrong,” said Haskey. “We can do anything we set our minds to and our goal was to go to the GNAC tournament and we are on our way to that,” claims Wiedeman.

This week the Saints are home for two games before hitting the road, in what could prove to be the most important stretch of the season. “We need to look at what we did before on film and try to fix our mistakes. Even if we played really well that game, we need to look at the little things and see if we can fix that. We’ll look to get our defense perfect because that’s our strong point,” said Haskey. “If we come out, play hard, and stick together as a team, good things come out of it,” added Pedroni.

The recipe that head coach Tim Healy has created has without a doubt worked so far. Stressing the importance of a team-first mentality, along with a hardnosed defensive has put the Saints in a position they haven’t been in since the GNAC tournament scaled back its tournament teams a few years ago. With two of their final games against the team they are tied with and the team they are ahead of, the Saints will look to use the old phrase that has seemed to last the test of time. “Offense puts people in the stands, but defense wins championships.”