FPU Sunbirds see gold on final day of nationals

FPU 4X400-meter relay team finishes in first place, and the women's team posts a 10th-place finish overall at the NCAA DII National Championships

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Kyra Bailey, Chole Sharp, Madison Flores and Danae Manibog Gatewood finished their track season with a gold medal performance at the national championships. (FPU Athletics)

The Fresno Pacific University track and field team capped the NCAA DII National Championships in Allendale, Michigan, with a championship title when Madison Flores, Danae Manibog Gatewood, Chloe Sharp and Kyra Bailey took home the gold in the 4×400-meter relay, leading the women’s team to a 10th-place finish overall, the best finish in program history.

“A top 10 finish in the nation is really something for us to be proud of,” says head coach Ray Winter. “We came into the third and final day of this meet with zero points on the board, so for our ladies to be mentally strong and believe in themselves and put 23 points up was remarkable. It’s the highest finish for any team in the history of our track and cross-country programs in the NCAA era.

“Putting three women on the podium in one event for All-American honors is incredibly difficult, considering only about the top 20 in the nation even get to compete at nationals in each event,” the coach says. “Madison (4th), Danae (5th), and Chloe (8th) all ran lifetime bests, and Madison matched Danae’s school record. The grand finale was of course the 4×400-meter relay with those three women and Kyra as the anchor. All three of these women ran a faster 400 than they have ever run in their careers, and the result was a national title. Danae ran the single-fastest split of the entire competition among all competitors.”

Winter credits coach Robert Foster for the runners’ success: “What Coach Robert Foster has done with our sprints squad is one of the most remarkable stories of the year in Division II track.”

Winter says one of the best parts of the national champion relay team is that they are all “homegrown,” coming from area high schools.

“Not only did they lower our school record by nearly four seconds, but I believe are now the sixth fastest program in DII history in the event,” Winter says.

First-time national qualifier in javelin Alicia Garcia also had a successful competition.

“Alicia walked into the team a year and a half ago as a kid who played softball growing up, and we figured we would give her a shot to throw the javelin,” Winter says. “Now she is one of the top 20 jav throwers in the nation! Her dedication and fight have been inspiring and throws coach Ray Hansen has once again shown his ability to find and grow talent. She will leave our program with the second-best all-time mark in school history.”

Team finishes

  • Flores, Manibog Gatewood, Sharp and Bailey took home the national title after posting a program-record 3:35.92 in the 4×400 relay, earning All-American honors in the process. Each of the four splits were personal records, and Manibog Gatewood ran the fastest 400 split in the entire field.
  • Flores took fourth place in the 400-meter dash, matching Manibog Gatewood’s school record of 53.63.
  • Manibog Gatewood finished on the heels of Flores in the 400 in 53.63, and Sharp earned a point for the Sunbirds with an eighth-place finish in 54.32.
  • In the 4×100-meter relay, the  Sunbirds finished sixth with Bailey stepping in for Richardson.
  • Alicia Garcia competed in her first NCAA National Championships, finishing 16thin the javelin throw after being seeded 20th in the nation. Her best mark was 41.92 meters.
Fresno Pacific University
Fresno Pacific University is California's Central Valley’s only accredited Christian university, connecting every student’s untapped potential with unlimited opportunity for professional, personal and ethical growth. Nonprofit and independent, FPU offers more than 100 areas of study to about 4,000 traditional undergraduate, adult degree completion, graduate and seminary students at the main campus in Southeast Fresno and throughout the Valley at regional campuses in North Fresno, Visalia, Bakersfield and Merced as well as online.

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