Twenty years ago, Mike Barnett, then a senior All-American at Azusa Pacific, completed the climb up the hill that led Azusa Pacific to its first-ever NAIA Men’s Outdoor Track and Field national championship. He scored 18 points, including 10 that came from his record fourth-straight NAIA javelin crown as Azusa Pacific cruised to the 1983 NAIA championship. Since then, Azusa Pacific has won 12 more outdoor team titles, but there is nothing like the first one.
Two decades later and Barnett is an original once again. Now the head coach of the Azusa Pacific women’s track and field team, Barnett guided the Cougars to their first-ever NAIA Women’s Outdoor Track and Field national championship.
APU used a balanced effort over three days of competition, scoring in the throws, distances, and jumps to capture the win, holding off a late charge by Lindenwood University of Missouri.
“Had someone told me 20 years ago that I’d coach the women to their first championship in 2003, I would have laughed at them,” said Barnett, who was also named the NAIA Outdoor Coach of the Year. “When I came here four years ago, I set out a goal to win the national title by my fourth season. We didn’t quite do it last year, but it’s even nicer to have another original ring on the 20th anniversary of the men’s first.”
The national championship is Azusa Pacific’s first-ever on the women’s outdoor circuit, and combined with their effort earlier in 2003, it gives the Cougar women a sweep of the NAIA indoor and outdoor 2003 championships. All in all, APU has now won 21 NAIA national championships between women’s volleyball, women’s soccer, football, men’s track and field, and women’s track and field.
In addition to the women’s showing in the 2003 championships, former Azusa Pacific track and field athletes Bryan Clay ’02 and Mary Sauer ’97 qualified for the World Track and Field Championships by finishing in the top three of their respective events at the U.S. Championship Meet in June 2003.
Clay, who was a 23-time NAIA All-American during his four-year career at Azusa Pacific (1999-2002), scored a personal-best 8,482 points in the decathlon and becomes only the eighth American ever to tally more than 8,400 points in a single decathlon, joining the likes of Dan O’Brien, Bruce Jenner, and former Cougar great Dave Johnson ’86, M.A. ’02. Additionally, his score is the third best in the world this year and put him in medal contention at the August 2003 World Championships in Paris.
Meanwhile, Sauer, who competed at Azusa Pacific from 1994-97, finished tied for third in the pole vault with a season-best launch. Like Clay, Sauer made her second appearance at the World Championships.