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Track seniors stride to nationals

Lee Masten

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J. Patrick Smith, senior nutrition and food science major and senior kinesiology majors John Brunk and Theodore Elsenbaumer are headed to the NCAA track and field championships. Photo credit: Grant Mahan

One meet is all it took for three Chico State decathletes to qualify for the national meet in May.

Seniors J Patrick Smith, Theodore Elsenbaumer and John Brunk finished with scores over the auto-qualifying mark of 7,000 points Feb. 27-28 at the Chico Multi-Event Classic.

They will compete for the final time at the 2014 NCAA National Track and Field Championships in May.

“Nationals is always the biggest goal of the season,” Brunk said. “We always know it’s in the cards and that is what we have been training so long for.”

Brunk set personal records for three events during the event and tied for first place with Smith with a score of 7,201.

“Qualifying definitely takes a lot of stress off our shoulders,” Smith said. “But this is just the beginning and it’s uphill in terms of training. Now we have to focus on training and helping our team get wins.”

Reaching the auto-qualifying mark doesn’t mean taking it easy for the rest of the season.

“We haven’t even peaked yet,” Elsenbaumer said. “We train all-year-round for a small window of time, which is nationals. We motivate each other and try to get on the same page mentally. It really pumps us up to try to do better.”

Elsenbaumer finished the meet with a personal record for the event, scoring 7,182 points and coming in third place, behind his teammates.

For now, the three ’Cats can focus more on the team rather than their individual efforts for the national meet.

The trio of ’Cats hope to succeed during their final season at the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships in May.

“I try not to think about it much,” Smith said. “I don’t worry this is my last time competing. I just try to give it all I have and work on getting better.”

The camaraderie among the three seniors is almost palpable. They try to push each other to maximize their potential and give everything they have for their last season.

“It’s crazy to think about that this is going to be it,” said Elsenbaumer. “We just have to go out there and put all we have into competing and everything else is secondary.”

Lee Masten can be reached at [email protected] or @lee23masten on Twitter.

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Track seniors stride to nationals