By Kate Post, digital media specialist
This past week, our men’s golf, men’s and women’s track and field, and baseball teams demonstrated that they are among the best in the nation. All competed at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II finals. Though their seasons ended without a championship title, their remarkable accomplishments deserve celebration and will serve as motivation for next year.
Men’s Golf – NCAA DII Semifinalists
An excellent showing from our men’s golf team over several matches last week landed the team in the nation’s Final Four, winning them a shiny semifinalist trophy. The Wildcats were knocked out in a narrow 3-2 loss to No. 1 ranked Barry University Thursday.
“The goal coming out here was to get to medal/match play and get that experience with such a young group,” said Wildcats Head Coach T.L. Brown, who fielded a team of four sophomores and senior Ricky Owaki. “It felt great just to see it all happen. I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished in 2014.”
Our golfers were supported by an audience of our track and field team members, also in town to compete in NCAA finals. The golf team, in turn, cheered on our track athletes the next day.
Track and Field – 9 All-America Honors
The nation’s Division II track and field teams at the NCAA Track & Field Championships knew the name “Chico State” by the time they left Allendale, Michigan, this weekend. Earning a combined nine All-America honors, producing a national champion, and landing sixth in the nation has that effect.
The Wildcat women came away with two All-America honors. Senior Kasey Barnett matched her career best in the long jump (20 feet, ¼ inches) to place fifth, earning her first All-America honor. Senior Ayla Granados placed sixth her final race as a Wildcat, the 5,000-meter run, also earning her first All-America. Granados also set a new personal best in that race (16:37.86), the fourth fastest 5k time in school history.
On the men’s side, fierce competition earned the Wildcats sixth place in the nation, their highest finish since 2007. Strong finishes all around earned the men seven All-America honors, their most in a single national meet in 10 years. Awardees included Isaac Chavez in the 10k, Alex McGuirk in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, Teddy Elsenbaumer and John Brunk in the decathlon, Michael Souza in the high jump, and J Patrick Smith in the decathlon and long jump. Smith also brought home his third straight national decathlon title, breaking the school record for decathlon point totals in the process.
Baseball – 2014 Division II College World Series
Coming off their ninth NCAA DII West Region title in 18 seasons, the Wildcats headed into the College World Series at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina, with high hopes. Unfortunately and uncharacteristically, they fell 6-4 to Lander in their first appearance Friday. Their second chance in the double-elimination tournament was dashed by a 14-6 loss to Tampa on Monday. The ’Cats fell behind early on but closed the gap during the sixth inning, only to be outwitted by Tampa’s relief pitcher.
Despite the tournament loss, the season was a huge success for the Wildcats, breaking school records left and right. They earned the sixth-best winning percentage in the past 60 years of Chico State baseball and set records in fielding percentage (.977), shutouts (10), and sacrifice hits (75) and tied the record for sacrifice flies. The team also broke its postseason stolen-base record with 13 bases stolen. Individually, the team features four All-Americans, Nick Baker, Luke Barker, Brad Lohse and Cody Slader, among their many award winners.