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Cougar Zone: Fall 2019

Kyara Black competes in the high jump

Smith & Black Win Track & Field National Titles

This spring, two Cougar athletes secured national titles during the 2019 NAIA Track & Field National Championships.

Senior Katrina (Tovar) Smith captured the NAIA national title in the pole vault during the indoor championships in March. Smith, a five-time NAIA All-American, became the second female in SAU history to win a national championship. Her win gave the program its 10th individual indoor championship, regardless of gender, and its 14th overall among indoor and outdoor championship meets.

Entering the competition seeded sixth overall, Smith advanced through her first four heights, including 12’ 2.5” (3.72 m) – matching her career best. The Sandusky, Michigan, native missed her first two tries before a successful vault on her final attempt, setting up a showdown with Lewis- Clark State’s Madison Carson for the title. On her first attempt at 12’ 6.25” (3.82 m), Smith cleared the bar, putting the pressure on Carson, who would ultimately miss on her three attempts. Smith’s mark was not only a career best — it smashed her own previous school record.

Freshman Kyara Black concluded a standout rookie campaign during the outdoor championships in May, making history by securing SAU’s first-ever outdoor national title in the women’s high jump and SAU’s first-ever women’s outdoor win in any event at the national meet. The national title was the second this year for the Cougars following Smith’s victory in the pole vault during the indoor season, and it was the 15th overall, regardless of gender, among indoor and outdoor championship meets.

Black came up just short of claiming the indoor national title back in March, finishing as the national runner-up, but she turned in the performance of a lifetime at the outdoor championships to take home the gold. The Danville, Indiana, native cleared a personal-best and school record of 5’ 9.25” (1.76 m) on her third attempt to outlast British Columbia’s Trinity Hansma.

Smith and Black’s standout performances made for an exciting track & field season at SAU. We’re excited to see Black and other athletes continue to break records and claim titles in the seasons to come.

Three New Coaches Hired by SAU Athletics

Within the last year, SAU Athletics has added three new coaches to their coaching staff: Tietricha Thomas, Gerry Lobdell ‘17 and Josh Oakley.

Thomas, who was hired as the Director of Spirit Programs last November, will lead the Cougars’ two newest sports, competitive cheer and dance. With more than 10 years of coaching experience, Thomas brings a wealth of knowledge with her to SAU. She spent two years as the head Spirit and Stunt Coach at Olivet College, where she led the Comets to a No. 3 national ranking. Prior to her arrival at Olivet, she spent four years as the Head Cheer Coach at Albion College, helping guide the Britons to their first-ever bid to NCAA nationals.

In January, Lobdell became the second Head Men’s and Women’s Bowling Coach in program history. He had previously served as assistant coach. An SAU alumnus and Jackson, Michigan, native, Lobdell is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about bowling. He has been involved in the sport for over 30 years, 18 of which he spent as the head coach at Northwest High School in Jackson. Additionally, he holds a United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Bronze Certification.

Oakley was named Men’s Soccer Head Coach in February, making him the 15th head coach in the history of the program. Before coming to SAU, Oakley spent eight years coaching soccer at Alma College. He led the Scots to many firsts, including the program’s first Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) conference tournament appearance in 2014. Prior to his arrival at Alma, Oakley directed the men’s soccer program at Asbury College for eight years. While at Asbury, he reconstructed a program that had endured thin years throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s.

The future of SAU Athletics is bright! We look forward to seeing where our new coaches will lead our Cougar teams in the coming years.