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Spring Sports Underway at North Park

North Park University Softball

CHICAGO, IL (March 8, 2010) – Spring holds promise for the North Park Viking athletic teams, as experience mixes with new talent.

Baseball

The baseball team seeks to build on a season in which they garnered the most wins since 1999. Coach Luke Johnson likes the mixture of talented underclassmen and returning contributors.

“We had a very productive fall, and our guys have done an admirable job of continuing to take the type of ownership in our program that becoming a nationally recognized baseball team requires,” says Johnson, now in his fifth year. “We lost some pretty good seniors to graduation, but we return several All-College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) and All- Central Region players who have a lot of games ahead of them. Our freshmen and transfer class is characteristically strong. By and large, this is a group with a lot of guys who are making our decisions pretty tough.”

The team will be battle tested early and often for the always rugged CCIW. Their non-conference schedule consists of an NCAA Division I opponent, multiple NCAA regional participants, and numerous games against traditionally ranked Central Region teams. Those teams would be wise not to take the Vikings lightly.

“Four years ago we were the definite cupcake on everybody’s schedule,” says Johnson. While that’s changed, we are still a ways away from where we know we can be. One of the things we tell our guys is that we will always play a tough schedule. We want our guys confident that they can be competitive with the best in the nation. For us to take our next step as an elite program in the region, we have to play winning baseball against the best teams in the region and country.”


Softball

Dan Gooris, coach of the softball team, expects the Vikings to exceed the expectations of others this season.

“Based on our experience and leadership we should have a shot at the playoffs,” says Gooris, now in his 14th year as head coach. He is optimistic about an improving pitching staff.

First-year coach Krista Thien, who played with the Baldwin Saints, an organization in the ASA Women’s majors, has been strengthening the staff’s endurance as well as the mental aspects of the game.

Leading the staff will be junior Kate Seebacher, a second team All-CCIW selection last season. Seebacher led the team in earned run average (2.64), wins (5), win-loss percentage (.625) and complete games (2). She also threw a complete-game three-hitter against Illinois Wesleyan late in the season. North Park lost the game 1-0, but its only mishap was a run-scoring error in the first inning.

Gooris also will rely on the pitching and bats of juniors Mallory Bieritz and Katie Anderson. Seebacher and Bieritz will split time at first when not pitching. Anderson, who was a second team All-CCIW selection as well as a Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-Region team member, is looking to improve on her team-leading .440 batting average and .648 slugging percentage.


Track & Field

As the men's and women's track and field teams move outdoors, they look to continue making their mark in the school’s record books. In February, junior Sarah Hansen smashed the North Park school record in her first indoor pentathlon. While setting personal records in four of the five events, Hansen broke Amber Walker’s previous school record of 2,641 by 162 points.

The five-event competition is the indoor counterpart to the women’s eight-event outdoor heptathlon and men’s 10-event outdoor decathlon.

Freshman Chris Mark already has put other teams on notice. He scaled a personal record of 13’ 11 ¼” in the pole vault at the annual Chicagoland Indoor Championships hosted at the University of Chicago. In doing so, he became the first freshman in 12 years to win the pole vault. Mark’s metric winning height of 4.25 meters is just a centimeter off the North Park school record of 4.26 meters.

The teams are under the leadership of first-year coach Skip Stolley, who has a proven record of developing talent. He served as the head track and field coach at Indiana State University for four years. He also was the executive director of the Los Angeles-based Puma Energizer Track Club, which produced 14 members of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team. He is also the founder of Track West, a USATF club dedicated to developing promising post-collegiate distance runners, which has produced 34 athletes who competed in the 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Trials, and more than 60 qualifiers for the USA Championships.