After a triumphant campaign last year, the Trinity men’s and women’s track and field teams look to kick off the new season with enthusiasm and success as they head to Birmingham, Ala., to the Emory Crossplex this Sunday, Jan. 25.

Trinity hosted the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships last year. The Tigers were a dominant force last April, with the men winning conference with a record 288 points and the women falling just short of Texas Lutheran with 237 points. The men brought home the ninth conference championship for their program.

In back-to-back years, Trinity’s staff, led by coach Marcus Whitehead, won SCAC Men’s Track & Field Staff of the Year.

Earning Newcomer of the Year Award was first-year standout Stephen Mason, who won the men’s discus at the SCAC Championship with a mark of 35.88 meters.  Mason finished in the top five of all his events, helping Trinity’s men bring home the conference title again.

Senior Will Paulus placed his name in the Trinity record books as the first male athlete in SCAC history to win both the 200-meter and 400 at the SCAC Championship, and he also contributed to the win for the 4×400-meter relay team. After last season, Paulus is now fourth in the 200 and third in the 400 in Trinity track and field history.

The Tigers’ George Warren also went out strong, finishing 18th in high jump at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships. Warren made it to nationals in back-to-back seasons.

For the Tiger women, senior Kelsey Oelze represented the program exceptionally well, being crowned Field Athlete of the Year. Oelze defended her title as champion in javelin with a mark of 36.31 meters and finished in the top four in her other events.

Trinity graduated a number of competitors this past year, including Paulus, Warren and Oelze.  Other graduates were Sara Breshears, Morgan Briggs, Jessie Dean, Sarah Hanel, Gerardo Hernandez, Joey Kozak, Vanessa Moreno, Maddie Murphy, Jackie Newell, Sam Roberts, Rosemary Steup and Salome Wilfred.  All of these athletes helped establish a winning mindset for the program.

As one class leaves, another arrives. Whitehead has brought in a talented class of student-athletes this season.

“Our goal is to send a large group—men and women— to nationals,” Whitehead said. “We’re kind of hovering around one to three athletes, but we want that to be more like 10 athletes.  We have a lot of young talent combined with a lot of returning talent; we think it’s a possibility if everyone stays healthy and we work hard.”

Matt Love, one of the newcomers, set his high school record in discus with a throw of 181 feet 9 inches, won the Area meet, finished second in his region and seventh in the Texas University Interscholastic League 5A State meet.

 Being a part of a program that has experienced a lot of recent success makes Love feel good. “It’s an honor.  I mean, I love track, and to be a part of such a successful program is really cool,” Love said.

Love is accompanied by Cody Hall, who is coming off season-bests in hurdles, David Soo, who finished ninth in the 4×100-meter relay at the UIL 6A State meet, his brother Eric Soo, who, although recovering from an injury, ran personal bests in the 100 and 200.  Michael Erickson is also joining the roster, who won the 800 in Area.

Others in the new class are Jacob Hammond, Daniel Henkes, Miro Giannone, Christopher Hoffman, Julian Byles, Lars Besselaar, Nathaniel Wofford, George Fairchild, Joseph Kohfield and Connor Phillips.

Newcomers to the women’s program are Nkolika Nweke who won District in the 100 and 200, Elizabeth Peters who finished eighth at Regionals in the 100.Britney Sullivan who finished second in the triple jump and long jump at the TAPPS 5A Championships and Melissa Whitman who won the 1600 and was runner-up in the TAPPS 3A Cross-Country Championship.

The women are also adding Emma MacEachern who finished third in district, Audrey Manchester who placed 27th at State in the 5k, Haley McFadden who helped her cross-country team win State and Lexi Phelps who took ninth at the District Cross-Country Championships. Other fresh faces to the women’s program are Heather Hayes, Savannah Seiler, Rachel Hanes and Michaela Lieb.

Although there are a number of new athletes to the program, they will be led by a successful coaching staff and team, headed by women’s co-captains Bailey Drury and Becca Earle. Both have been top competitors for the Tigers.

Only a junior, Drury has already stacked up an impressive list of accomplishments, consisting of Newcomer of the Year, SCAC Champion in the 200 and 400, school record-holder in the 4×100 relay team and member of the 4×400 relay winning unit.

“We have a lot of talent on the team this year and we have been training hard since September,” Drury said. “We just need to trust in all the hard work we have put in as we head into our first couple of meets.”

Trinity will compete in 13 regular season meets this year. The Tigers will host four meets: the Alumni Inter-Squad Meet Jan. 31, the Trinity Open Feb. 28, the Trinity Invitational March 27 and the SCAC Championships beginning April 24 in Canton, N.Y.