The way Canyon High track and field coach Paul Broneer tells it, Seanna Nalbandyan wasn’t exactly gung-ho about switching from the 400-meter dash to the hurdles as a prep star.
“It’s a little scary to jump over 10 barriers while trying to sprint,” the longtime coach at Nalbandyan’s alma mater said Monday. “She caught on and her technique kept getting better and better.”
Saturday, Nalbandyan crushed The Master’s University’s record in what has become her favorite event – and her ticket to NAIA nationals.
The freshman phenom ran the 400 hurdles in 1 minute, 1.81 seconds, finishing sixth behind runners from Azusa Pacific, Yale, Navy and UC San Diego at a meet hosted by Point Loma Nazarene University.
It was her lifetime best, and it guaranteed her a spot at the NAIA Outdoor National Championships in Gulf Shores, Alabama in late May.
Her success, however, isn’t why she prefers the event.
“I prefer the hurdles because I feel there’s something to look forward to while I’m racing,” said Nalbandyan, who bested the TMU mark set by Ayla Draper in 2013 (1:02.63). “I look forward to each hurdle, which is different than the open four.”
Nalbandyan’s performance highlighted a strong all-around effort by TMU’s freshmen group at Point Loma.
Freshman Rachelle Nelson ran the 1500 for the first time collegiately and posted a time of 4:54.03.
Freshmen Wes Methum and Kevin Pacheco also had solid debuts in the 1500, while fellow frosh Cameron Fooks debuted in impressive fashion in the 800 (2:02.84).
“The strong freshman marks are a promising indicator of what the future of our program holds,” said coach Zach Schroeder.
Nalbandyan, of course, is the headliner. In her first spring at TMU, she has impressed in the 400 open. Mustang coaches, however, have been quick to point out that the hurdles are her primary event. Namely, that bigger and better things were yet to come.
Saturday, she delivered. And she still believes she can do better.
“I think I can get way better, honestly,” Nalbandyan said. “I know I can improve my form. This is only the beginning.”
“She’s not going to let anybody down because of her work ethic and desire to win,” he said. “She’s a true competitor.”
Baseball looking to bounce back
Despite suffering a three-game sweep at the hands of NAIA No. 7 William Jessup this weekend at McBean Park in Lincoln, senior slugger Jaiden France was confident TMU would bounce back.
“We always do,” he said, after launching a first-inning grand slam over the left field fence in the series finale Sunday.
William Jessup (29-6, 19-2 in GSAC) – the Golden State Athletic Conference’s first-place team – recovered to tie the score at 4-all by the end of the fifth inning.
A walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth finally sunk TMU to a 5-4 defeat (the Mustangs dropped Saturday’s double-header, 9-1 and 5-3). Master’s left 14 men on base Sunday and 24 in the final 16 innings of the series.
TMU (17-13, 10-10), however, felt like it hit a number of line drives right at people.
“We just couldn’t catch a break,” said Mustang junior Preston White, the team’s leader in batting average and saves. “We had bases loaded with no outs today and didn’t get a run. … We had a bunch of line drives at people and just couldn’t catch a break.”
“We just have to focus on getting better and not focus on results,” White said.
TMU, which currently sits in fourth place in GSAC standings, will host Bethesda University for a non-conference game at Lou Herwaldt Stadium today. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.
For more information on The Master’s University Athletic Department, visit GoMustangs.com.