The men’s and women’s track and field teams are preparing for their upcoming seasons. After winning the PacWest title last season, each team is focusing on performance and sending more athletes to nationals than last year.

To track and field Director Mike Barnett, an emphasis on community is most important.

“We take relationships and unity within the team seriously,” Barnett said. “Coaches are very intentional about trying to build those relationships.”

Leadership on the team is held at a high standard alongside relationship building. Captains are chosen by team members primarily based on the leadership skills they display.

“The captains we have this year are very methodical in their approach to building relationships by having Bible studies, praying for one another and modeling and communicating the importance of the gifts they’ve been given,” Barnett said.

After last year’s success at the Division II Outdoor Championships, APU is looking to capitalize and expand the number of athletes each team is able to send.

“Our goal is to take as many athletes to nationals as possible,” Barnett said. “The goal is to score as many points as you can. We feel the more athletes that qualify, the better opportunity to score points.”

Before last season, coaching staff changes affected certain athletes such as senior vault athlete Zoe Wilkens. She noted her excitement and motivation at the start of the season and her eagerness to improve from last year.

“I didn’t do as well as I thought I was going to [last season],” Wilkens said. “This year, I’m in a better mental state than I was. Now that we have a consistent and dedicated coach, it’s helping out a lot, and I feel like it’s going to be a good season this year.”

Multi’s athlete sophomore Shakiel Chattoo said he is hopeful for what this season holds and is ready to overcome personal obstacles that he faced last season.

“Last year I suffered a back injury coming to the outdoor season,” Chattoo said. “The school has provided immense opportunities for me to get my back intact for the upcoming season, not only [in] track and field, but [also] my well-being.”

Since winning the NCAA D-II indoor heptathlon championship last season, Chattoo is hoping to maintain that confidence springing into this season.

“Once we are a unit, we can conquer anything,” Chattoo said. “We’re the main target this year because we are the number one from last year. I think we should just continue doing what’s supposed to be done. I want us to stay focused and stay together.”

The Cougars’ first meet will be on Dec. 8 at the Colorado Mines Alumni Classic. After returning from winter break, their next competition will be on Jan. 14 at the UCS National Pole Vault Summit.