Written by Student Assistant Garrett Hittner
TACOMA, Wash. – The Pacific Lutheran University men's and women's track & field teams head into its final competition before the NCAA Division III Championships, making one final trip to Oregon for the Portland Twilight Meet on Friday and Saturday.
First-year Lauren Wilson comes off a strong outing at the Ken Shannon Invitational hosted by the University of Washington last weekend. At the meet she cleared five feet, six inches, in the high jump which is the fourth best in PLU history in the event. She has improved greatly within just her first season as a Lute.
"Up until the conference meet I felt like I hadn't been improving, because last year I was jumping better heights than where I was before conference. But, after these last couple of competitions, I have seen the work that all of the high jumpers put in since January finally produce results I'm really proud of."
Focusing on one event is different for Wilson as she was often a key member of the 4x400m relay team during her high school years. While there are many benefits that come from cross training and maintaining speed for her jumps, narrowing in on the high jump has been a benefit for the two-sport athlete who also competes for the Northwest Conference Champion volleyball team.
"Overall it's really nice being able to completely focus on just the high jump. I don't have to worry about checking out for another event while in the middle of competition."
Competing at a high level has brought out the best in the young high jumper as she cleared the best mark of the season in a postseason meet.
"For me, it's easier to push myself to clear higher bars when I see my competition do it first. I also love being around such competitive athletes on our PLU track and field team: everyone pushes each other to reach their full potential."
On the men's team, Kyle Rapacz, a junior distance runner for the Lutes, will be competing in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Portland Twilight Meet. The team captain comes off a win at the Northwest Conference Championship meet but has not been able to compete during the postseason.
"The postseason differs in the regular season mainly in the sense of urgency. On one hand, you aren't worrying about trying to prepare for the conference championships. However, in the postseason you know that these are your last opportunities to improve your marks and compete against high levels of competition."
The conference champion has experienced much success in his time as a Lute both on the track and during the cross country season.
"I think that at times I take for granted the opportunities I have experienced through my competitive success, but after running a nationally competitive time in the steeplechase at the Northwest Conference Championships I think I'm more aware of how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to be competitive at a high level."
Being a steeplechase athlete is a unique mix of endurance, athleticism, and flexibility. Rapacz knows how each one of the aspects play a role into the race and he enjoys the challenge of the event.
"Steeplechase is not an event that is offered in high school. It is a modified hurdle race where competitors have to jump over a barrier 35 times during the 3,000m race with one being into a water pit. The race was originally designed for horses but modified for distance runners. Training for this event involves the same distance training as my other teammates and some extra practice jumping over hurdles and into the water to be prepared for race day."
When she isn't playing volleyball or jumping over bars for the Lutes, Wilson is obsessed with being in the sun as well as having a slight coffee addiction. In his free time, Rapacz like to play the guitar, watch sports, listen to music, and he enjoys the great outdoors.
Action starts on the evening of Friday at George Fox University with the field events with running events happening on Saturday at Lewis & Clark College.