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Summer 2009 | Volume 32, Number 2 | Athletics

Seaons of Achievement

Falcon Highlights


Coach Jeff Hironaka
The Falcons returned to post-season play in Coach Jeff Hironaka’s final year.

This past autumn, Seattle Pacific University celebrated a highly successful fall sports season, with a national championship in women’s soccer as well as a women’s cross country team that won the conference and produced an individual national champion. If those events seem more distant than they actually are, it’s probably because of the significant Falcon achievements since then:

Gymnastics. At the USA Gymnastics Collegiate Event Finals in Connecticut, senior Brianna Schwartz tied for first place on the uneven bars, snaring SPU’s 22nd individual national championship in the sport. Schwartz also won All-America honors, as did freshman Kaysha Heck, who finished right behind her teammate in point totals on the bars.

Women’s Basketball. Despite returning only one starter, Seattle Pacific posted a 23-5 record en route to a share of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship. Guided by coach Julie van Beek, the Falcons overcame injuries, illnesses, and a 40-point midseason loss to Western Washington, finishing the regular season with 11 consecutive victories and a No. 7 national ranking. They reached the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Division II playoffs, dropping the West Regional championship game to archrival Alaska-Anchorage.

Men’s Basketball. Coach Jeff Hironaka took his 19-10 squad to the NCAA Division II tournament for the fifth consecutive year. In April, Hironaka announced that he would become an assistant coach at Washington State University next season. There he’ll rejoin former Falcon head coach and new Cougars head coach Ken Bone. Hironaka coached at SPU for 18 years — the first 11 as an assistant under Bone and the last seven as head coach, compiling a 134-67 record. He won GNAC Coach of the Year twice while leading the team to two conference championships and a Division II Final Four berth in 2006.

The Falcons will head into next season with new coach Ryan Looney at the helm. Looney led Eastern Oregon University to the quarter-finals of the 2009 NAIA Division II Tournament.

Track and Field. A year ago, junior Jessica Pixler missed most of the track and field season with stress fractures. This year, she accomplished enough for two seasons. Pixler broke the GNAC 1,500-meter record twice in as many weeks; won her third consecutive NCAA indoor mile crown and first indoor 5,000-meter championship; set SPU records with her marks in the mile, the 5K, and the 3K, as well as her 13th career GNAC Athlete of the Week award; and was named the GNAC indoor Female Athlete of the Year.

In fact, the Falcon women swept the GNAC indoor track awards: Sophomore Janae Larson earned Newcomer of the Year honors; Ali Worthen was named Freshman of the Year; and Karl Lerum won Coach of the Year. SPU garnered its sixth consecutive GNAC indoor women’s title, and was ranked sixth nationally.

Crew. On May 31, during the last day of the NCAA Women's Rowing Championships on the Cooper River, the Falcon women crew team lived up to their No. 3 ranking by racing to the best finish in school history. They took a bronze medal in the Division II varsity eight grand final. This was the maiden voyage for the Falcons in the national grand finals.

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Department Highlights

A New Chapter for the Falcons
SPU hires Erin O’Connell as its first woman athletic director.

Seasons of Achievement
Falcons highlights were many this year, including individual national titles and a coach moving on.

McCrath Honored by National Soccer Coaches
Cliff McCrath inducted into the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame.