Track and field coaches at George Fox University keep an eye out for athletes who show potential for versatility.
Head coach John Smith was a collegiate decathlete, and he emphasizes multi-events for his Bruins.
GFU women swept the top four places in the heptathlon competition at the Northwest Conference Multi-Events meet Monday and Tuesday at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., taking a big lead in the NWC championships nearly two weeks before the conference meet gets into full swing.
Among that quartet are Woodland High School graduate Charity Arn, a freshman, and Hudson’s Bay High School graduate Alyssa Turner, a junior.
Arn was runner-up, and Turner placed third.
“He always has a joke that, ‘Even if you’re not a heptathlete or decathlete, I can make you one,’ ” Turner said of Smith. “If you did more than one event in high school and you have potential to learn the rest, he tries — at least for a little bit — to see if you can do heptathlon or decathlon.”
Alexis Arnold claimed top honors with 4,554 points, followed by Arn with 4,367, Turner with 4,261, and Katie Dyk with 4,150. They totaled 29 team points for the NWC championships, with Willamette second with eight points.
As if they don’t see enough of each other at the top of the heptathlon standings, Arnold and Turner are roommates while Arn and Dyk are roommates.
Arn and Turner each set a personal-record point total, with Turner setting top marks in five events and Arn in three or four.
Heptathlon includes the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meters, long jump, javelin, and 800 meters.
Performances in the seven events are awarded point values, which are totaled to determine standings.
Arn, a versatile track and field athlete in high school who also was Class 2A Greater St. Helens League girls basketball player of the year as a senior, said heptathlon was “a natural fit” for her. She has thrived in the environment of collegiate athletics.
“I’ve never had so many amazing coaches,” she said. “Every single one of them has so much knowledge that it’s really fun, and they all care so much. I feel a lot stronger than I was before because of the weight room, so that helps a lot. I think that helps my jumping a lot. I still need to get faster, but that’s coming.”
Turner said she is strongest “by far” in the track events, but has come a long way in the throwing and jumping events.
“We knew it was going to be difficult, but we hoped we could do it,” Arn said of the GFU sweep. “It was fun.”
Turner said she expected Willamette’s Brandi Miller, who outpointed Turner in each of the two previous seasons, to deny the Bruins their sweep. Miller wound up fifth.
“Once we started doing events and people started getting personal bests, one after another, it was just like, ‘We might be able to do something here.’ It was great.”
Turner said she could have scored even better, but she eased off in the final event, the 800 meters, because Dyk needed the points for a win to help her nip Miller by nine points in the final standings.
The heptathletes will display their versatility by each competing in several individual events at the conference meet, April 20-21 at Parkland.
After that, Arn hopes to receive a bid to the NCAA D-III meet for the heptathlon. The top 20 individuals qualify for nationals.
Focused on hurdles
Turner, meanwhile, tops all of NCAA-III with a time of 1:01.57 in the 400 hurdles, a mark she recorded March 31 at the Westmont College Classic in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“Where did that come from?” was the reaction of her coaches, she said of a drop of more than two seconds in her personal best.
“I don’t know what happened, but I guess it finally clicked how to run that race right,” she said.
Turner said she is just now beginning to grasp the concept that she has the potential to become a national champion. Her goal is to give herself that opportunity by advancing to the finals in the event. Outside of that individual goal, Turner said she wants “to do the very best I can in every single event that I can in order to help my team get a conference championship.”
George Fox is defending champion after snapping Willamette’s nine-year title run last year.