TMU cross country coach Zach Schroeder searched for an analogy Monday to best describe Abigail Frankian’s crunch-time performance in the 5,000 meters last week. He settled on baseball.
“If there was a closer in track and field, I guess it would be Abigail,” said Schroeder, who described the beginning of Frankian’s season as a bit of a struggle. Still, the Saugus High product found a way Thursday to qualify for NAIA nationals for the fourth straight year.
“When the stakes are high, she knows how to go places mentally that few athletes know how to go to,” Schroeder said.
Frankian ran the 5K in 17 minutes, 47.64 seconds to hit an NAIA consideration time. Last season, she finished 11th in the event at nationals, just outside All-American status. A year earlier, she ran a program record in the 3,000 steeplechase at NAIA prelims.
The other Mustang to qualify for nationals last week at the Bryan Clay Invitational in Azusa was junior Stephen Pacheco. Pacheco hit a PR in the 5,000 (14:56.42), good for an NAIA consideration time.
His mark was also the second-fastest by a Golden State Athletic Conference athlete this season. It wasn’t much of a surprise.
Early in the year, Schroeder tabbed Pacheco as a leading candidate to qualify on the men’s side, a feat the coach believed would impact the rest of the team.
“I think he is definitely raising the bar on the men’s side because he’s the first to hit a qualifying mark (this year),” Schroeder said. “… There isn’t urgency to race big until a teammate does. If guys are performing well, then others will follow suit.”
Freshman Wes Methum nearly joined Pacheco in qualifying Thursday. Methum fell .65 short of hitting the NAIA B Standard in the 5K. However, he will receive another chance on May 12 at the Oxy Invite in Los Angeles.
Schroeder also plans to take Hart High product Mikala Fairchild (1,500) and Josh Nunez (steeplechase) to the meet for one last chance to move on.
The teams’ previous qualifiers will also run at Oxy. At the forefront is freshman Seanna Nalbandyan, a Canyon High grad.
Earlier this year, Nalbandyan ran the NAIA’s fourth-fast 400 hurdles time of 2018 (1:01.81), hitting the NAIA A Standard in the process. She has also been part of a groundbreaking relay group.
Prior to this season, the Mustangs were unable to field sprint relay teams because of numbers. But with the emergence of Nalbandyan, the senior leadership of Tess Thompson and the contributions of Emma Bahr, Emily Hess and Rylee Bishop, the Mustangs continue to set PRs and, as a result, program records at nearly every meet.
Friday, Thompson, Nalbandyan, Hess and Bahr set a new school record in the 4×100 relay (51.94).
Bahr, Thompson, Bishop and Nalbandyan crushed the previous record in the 4×400 on the same day (4:04.81).
“These are some of the first times (for Master’s) to do the relays,” Bahr said, “so every time we’re out there and get a PR, it’s a school record. That’s pretty exciting.”
Thompson isn’t sure if the Mustang relays will reach nationals, but with the GSAC Championship looming, she has another goal in mind.
“I really want to beat Westmont,” she said.
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