The Raven Track & Field program is weeks away from getting their Indoor season started under second-year head coach Henry Brun, and they are looking to keep up the momentum they established with a succesfull run last season.
While there are plenty of returning athletes for both the Raven Women and Raven Men, in total Coach Brun brought in 25 new athletes to the men's program and 21 to the women's program.
Raven Men Preview
With eight seniors, the 2016-'17 Raven Men are very young this season but still have their sites set on top finishes in both the Indoor and Outdoor Heart Championships.
"Last year was a learning year for the men's program," Coach Brun said. "Our team is very young, but the talent level of our freshmen along with the leadership of our upperclassmen is certainly a recipe for success this season. I strongly believe that we can be, at our best, a top three team in the Heart contending for a conference title.
"There are a number of athletes that have their sights set on NAIA Nationals this season and I have been working with my coaching staff to put together the proper training so that we can attain those goals."
Dylan Grove, John Danner and Jerel Rawls are among the top returners for Coach Brun. Grove was a 2015 NAIA All-American in the javelin while Danner was on the 2015 4x800 meter relay team which qualified for Nationals. He also holds the current record for the 1,000 meter. Rawls was a 2016 All-Heart finisher in both the 400 meter and 4x400 meter relay.
The highlighted newcomers for the programs, displays Coach Brun's offseason emphasis to boost overall numbers for the program while recruiting across the board bringing in sprinters, jumpers, throwers and distance runners.
Coach Brun singled out six newcomers that he is looking for contributions this season. They are Bobby Schopp, Freshman (Central Catholic HS – Normal, Ill.), 400m, 800m; Simon Holly, Freshman (Atchison HS – Atchison), 400m, 800m; Jeremiah Connealy, Freshman (Mt. Michael Benedictine HS – Bellevue, Neb.), Sprints, Jumps; Daniel Gorsich, Freshman (Linn-Mar HS – Marion, Iowa), Sprints, Hurdles; Aaron Mack, Junior (Pinellas Park Senior HS – Clearwater, Fla.), Sprints; and Elijah Green, Sophomore (Huntley HS – Huntley, IL), Distance.
Our biggest strength will be in our mid-distance group, with assistance from the sprinters," Coach Brun said. "Our new additions will allow us the opportunity to score in events that we struggled with in previous seasons (Jumps, Throws, Multis)."
There are several meets throughout the indoor and outdoor season that Coach Brun is looking at to see how this year's group is progressing. The program opens up at the Bob Timmons Challenge at the University of Kansas on Dec. 3. In addition, the team will be competing in the Jayhawk Classic on Jan. 27-28 and the Mule Relays hosted by the University of Central Missouri on Feb. 4.
The first meet of the season will really gauge what our indoor season will look like, Coach Brun said. "We had a very rigorous pre-season that I believe has prepared everyone for a competitive indoor campaign. The improvements our coaching staff has seen from August until now is remarkable and has assured us a promising beginning to the season."
Once the Ravens move outside, Coach Brun is looking at the Darrel Gourley Open, hosted by William Jewell College (April 15) and the annual Kansas Relays (April 19-22) as two meets that will be full of strong regional and national competitors.
Raven Women Preview
The 2015-2016 season was one for the history books for the Raven Women's Track & Field Program. In addition to winning the Heart Indoor Championships, the program brought the school its first NAIA National Championship since the 1960s when the 4x800 meter relay took top honors at NAIA Indoor Nationals. The program took that momentum outside and narrowly missed out on the Heart Outdoor Championship, finishing in second place by 5.5 points.
"Our strength is in our senior class, which are our primary distance runners," said Coach Brun. "The experience they have will be the backbone of our success. I am really looking forward to a very well-rounded team this season. We have depth in every event and each member has a niche in helping build a championship team. I am particularly excited about the development of our jumpers and how much they will contribute."
The list of returners for the Raven Women is full of All-Americans and All-Conference competitors. They are:
Lauren Benzing (Senior), Distance, 2016 NAIA National Champion (4x800m Relay); Elise Buchman (Senior), Distance, 2016 All-Conference (1500m, 3000m, 5000m); Lucy Leighton (Senior), Distance, 2016 Heart Conference Champion (1500m), 2016 HAAC Outdoor Female Athlete of the Meet; Katherine Dillard (Senior), Distance, 2016 NAIA Indoor Regional Athlete of the Year, 2016 NAIA National Champion (4x800m Relay); Cassie Helena (Junior), Sprints, Jumps, 2016 All-Conference (Triple Jump); Katie Weaver (Sophomore), Mid-Distance, 2016 Heart Conference Champion (Distance Medley Relay).
"My focus in the off-season was to bring in a strong recruiting class that would add some depth on the roster in the sprints, jumps, and hurdles, said Coach Brun. "With the new class coming in, I believe we did just that. Expectations are sky-high for this group of women as I believe we have a chance to repeat as Heart Indoor Champions and bring home our first Outdoor Heart title."
Coach Brun highlighted some of his newcomers he's looking at to make a contribution this season to the women's program, they are: Megan Quigley, Freshman (Pius X HS – Lincoln, Neb.), 100m, 200m; Bailey Strine, Freshman (Smith Center HS – Lebanon, Kan.), Throws; Camille Mancini, Freshman (Knoxville Catholic HS – Knoxville, Tenn,), Heptathlon; Sarah Lucas, Freshman (Holy Rosary Academy – Anchorage, Alaska), Sprints, Jumps; Sydney Stephens, Freshman (Colby HS – Colby), 100m, 200m, 400m; Mollie Ambuul, Sophomore (Hedgesville HS – Martinsburg, WV), 400m, 800m; Keishonda Rose, Junior (Fairfax HS – Los Angeles), 100m, 200m.
Like the men, Coach Brun has pinpointed several meets for the indoor and outdoor season that will help he and his coaching staff gauge how the women are progressing through the season. Those meets are The Bob Timmons Challenge at the University of Kansas on Dec. 3 – the first indoor meet of the season for the program – the Jayhawk Classic on Jan. 27-28 and the Mule Relays hosted by the University of Central Missouri on Feb. 4. On the schedule during the outdoor season, two meets will serve as strong meets for the program. They are the Darrel Gourley Open, hosted by William Jewell College (April 15) and the annual Kansas Relays (April 19-22) as two meets that will be full of strong regional and national competitors.