'Steeplechase U' Beacons ready for Nationals

The NAIA Track and Field Championships begin on May 23rd in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Northwest Christian will be one of the schools hoping to grab some points and trophies, and may just do it in one specific event.

Posted: May 21, 2019 7:15 PM

Eugene, Ore. -- "We call ourselves the 'Steeple People' or 'Steeple Crew' because there is so many of us that qualify each year," jokes NCU's Cassandra Brownell.

The group that runs the Steeplechase event for NCU Track and Field also goes by another nickname...

"'Steeplechase U' started back with Michelle and I," says former Beacon runner and current assistant coach T.J. Wright. "...Really started with Michelle that's when our steeplechase program really started to take off."

Wright and Michelle Fletcher-Tyler were the first group in 2016. Since then, the Beacons have had 9 All Conference runners, swept the CCC titles in two different years and have the top Steeplechase runner, Anika Rasubala, in the NAIA running for them.

"We're a small group and I think the coaches to start us out with," the top ranked runner explains. "...Always really push the drills and practice each day to think about the competition at the end."

New Head Coach Tom Bolden has had a unique challenge in his first year at the helm: continue the excellence in steeplechase establishe by NCU's inaugural track coach Heike McNeil.

"I didn't wanna be the coach that came in and all of a sudden there is this drop off," says Bolden with a laugh. "But certainly once I got to know the athletes and their work ethic it became obvious I just needed to help be part of the continued success."

Which gives NCU it's own unique appeal, not only on the recruiting trail, but out at events.

"It's kind of weird because it's not a super common event for a school to be really proficient in or have it be their thing," says NCU runner Conner Covey. "I think it's kind of cool to show up at a meet and have four steeplechasers all place well."

Even with a somewhat new staff, having former athletes on the team who aim to continue the legacy of Steeplechase U makes all the difference.

"It means a lot to us, because it's an event we really care about," says Tyler-Fletcher, a former champion herself. "And so seeing the next generations come in and do awesome at it just means that we've established a strong culture of strong steeplechasing at NCU."

And the next generation of Steeple People get their shot down in Gulf Shores at the national championships down in Alabama. 

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