Junior Araseli Servin, freshman Kaelin Moore and junior Shane Martin qualified for the NCAA Division II Outdoor Championships last week and will compete in Charlotte, North Carolina this weekend.
The top-20 athletes from each event were selected by the committee to compete at Nationals. Martin represents the Broncos’ best chance at a podium with the hurdler ranked third in the nation with a career best time of 13.83 seconds.
“I’m just going to go out there and run my race, just stay disciplined and execute everything that I’ve been working on,” Martin said. “I definitely feel like if I do that and I don’t stress myself out trying to push to win and just run my race I actually think I have a good chance at being a national champion this year.”
Martin transferred from Division I Mississippi Valley State prior to this season and has been around a Nationals qualifying mark since his first meet at Cal Poly Pomona. What eluded Martin during the season was a sub-14 second time in the 110-meter hurdles. At the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships, he ran two sub-14 second times, won the event and automatically qualified for Nationals.
The next goal for Martin is to run a 13.65 time that he believes will not only win him the National Championship, but also qualify him for the U.S.A. Track and Field Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa at the end of June.
“That’s the time that I want so that I can continue my season and run again at even a bigger meet and just get that experience,” Martin said.
Darrell Smith Jr. joined as an assistant coach this season working with sprinters and hurdlers. Smith joined Cal Poly Pomona after spending five years at the University of California, Los Angeles and has been a coach for over 20 years.
“When I came in I had all types of little flaws that I thought were right the way I was taught,” Martin said. “The things that he’s changed have ultimately pushed me to the next level.”
Martin’s fellow hurdler Moore walked on at Cal Poly Pomona this year and came out of nowhere according to Smith. In high school, Moore didn’t make it past CIF Preliminaries. He credits his incredible improvement this season to Smith.
“Coach Smith is definitely the reason,” Moore said. “In high school I never really got great training.”
According to Moore, he has learned to “run the hurdles properly” this year from Smith and been able to develop a “race plan” going into each race so that he is prepared for any situation.
Moore was originally training to run the high hurdles like Martin, but Smith believed Moore was better suited to run the 400m hurdles and a strong performance at Cal Poly Pomona’s Green and Gold meet confirmed that decision.
Smith described Moore as “bambi” in his running style at the beginning of the year because of his tall frame being similar to how a baby deer runs.
“When deer are born they are kind of wobbly, legs kind of everywhere and that’s kind of how he runs,” Smith said. “When he’s running he’s just all heart and effort, so he’s just kind of everywhere technically.”
Moore is ranked 14th in the nation in the 400m hurdles and is looking at this meet as an opportunity to grow.
“There’s not much to lose, this is the first year and it’s a learning experience more than anything else,” Moore said. “I’m going to be working on my form in the meet, focusing on my steps, trying to execute the hurdles the best of my ability.”
Moore and Martin have become friends this year and spend time off the track together. According to Moore, Martin is constantly giving Moore tips on how to improve and even seeing things that Smith doesn’t.
“When I go over the hurdles I jump up a little before going over and he told me to just lift my lead leg up instead of jumping,” Moore said.
Last season, a spot at Nationals was the last thing on Servin’s mind. While riding her motorcycle on the 60 freeway, Servin was hit by a car and broke her foot. She considered quitting track, but coach Wes Ashford talked her out of it and she returned to set provisional marks in the 3,000m steeple chase multiple times during the season.
“He just told me to take it one race at a time that eventually I would be able to keep up with the girls because I had the talent,” Servin said.
Servin’s place in Nationals came down to the wire, as her run in the CCAA Championships placed her 20th in the nation and in the last qualifying place with another week of races to go. Servin held onto her place and qualified.
This year, Servin has been working with Ashford to improve on her water jumps which are according to her, the toughest part of the steeple chase event.
“If you don’t get a good jump off of it the steeple then is going to slow you down,” Servin said.
Cal Poly Pomona’s track does not have a water pit to practice with meaning Servin trains on the grass infield instead. The only thing Servin can work on when practicing on grass is her form because the water pit in a race is not level like the grass.
Servin’s goal is to run under 10 minutes and 40 seconds. Her personal best this year is 10:43.02. She has pinpointed the sixth lap of the race where she loses time.
“I tend to slow down during that lap just because I get really tired,” Servin said. “So, if I can keep steady after the sixth lap I should be on pace.”