State Colleges

Friends take barrier-breaking year to track nationals

At Friends, there has been no mention of having too much of a good thing.

At this point, anyway, who would listen?

“It’s been a pretty special year,” Friends track and field coach Brad Peterson said. “I don’t think anybody outside of our program thought we could pull off what we did.”

The Falcons pulled off something that had never been done in school history over the past year — clean sweeps of the men’s and women’s KCAC titles in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field.

The men’s cross country crown brought Southwestern’s 31-year streak of titles to an end. The men’s outdoor track and field title, won on May 5 at Sterling, ended Southwestern’s 29-year streak of titles.

Friends is taking seven men’s athletes and six women’s athletes to the NAIA championships beginning Thursday in Marion, Ind.

“Six of six titles … that’s amazing,” Peterson said. “On the men’s side of things we had some great senior leadership that pulled the strings all year and got things to turn out how we wanted.”

Friends takes several All-America candidates to the national meet, including a pair of long-distance runners with legitimate shots at winning national titles.

Senior Javier Ceja has the fastest qualifying time in the nation in the men’s marathon and is already a three-time All-American — twice in cross country and in the 5,000 meters this year in indoor track.

Junior Jordan Arnold finished second in the nation at the national indoor meet in the 5,000 — the same event she’ll be going for a title in at Marion — and is participating in her third outdoor championships. Arnold hasn’t lost in the KCAC in two years.

“Javier has the top time, so I guess that makes him the favorite,” Peterson said. “And with Jordan we’re not talking about her just being an All-American, but competing for a national title.”

In field events, Quentin Benning (shot put) and KCAC champion Kirt Nichols (discus) are both ranked in the top eight.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” Peterson said. “It’s a great group of student-athletes who have really made their school proud.”