Head coach DeAndra’e Woods has instilled a nine-word motto into the Chapman women’s track and field team: Believe in, be all in, buy in, locked in.
“It reminds us every week what we’re doing this for,” said sophomore psychology major and team member Gabi Siguenza. “It’s not just to score points, and it’s not just to be on the team — it’s that you’re contributing to something bigger.”
This season, Siguenza said the team’s achievements are built around the energy of the younger runners. Siguenza and Woods commended the team’s focus and readiness to work hard, and Arabella Reece – a freshman communication studies major who has broken Chapman records – used the word to describe the youthful presence on the team.
“A lot of us are mostly freshmen and sophomores, so it’s allowing a new energy on the team to be fostered,” Reece said.
Since Woods took over as the Chapman coach at the beginning of the 2017-2018 academic year, the new focus on self-positivity, Woods said, has coincided with a slew of successes. Just six meets into the season, five school records have already been broken since the season began in February.
Siguenza broke a former nine-year-long record March 9 in the 400-meter hurdle at the Ben Brown Invitational, then broke that same record by a second and a half just a week later at the Irwin Collegiate Scoring Meet March 16.
“I’ve had to reassure myself a lot this year that I can do these things, because I know that I’m capable of them,” Siguenza said. “This year, I’ve been taking a lot more time to work through anything that might be holding me back.”
She remembers a particularly grueling practice earlier this season she said was rewarding to the team’s chemistry. The workout consisted of six cycles of running “broken 400s,” a drill in which the runners sprint 300 meters over hurdles, take a 30-second break and sprint another 100 meters.
“(That) was really awful physically, but when we finished we were just hugging it out,” Siguenza said. “It’s moments like that where you’re continuing to support each other through the worst of it.”
Despite the female Panthers’ hard work, their success sometimes goes unnoticed due to the small size of their program, Woods said. Reece said that an “underdog” mentality serves to motivate the team and surprise people who “aren’t looking for an outstanding effort.”
“I keep reminding our student-athletes that it’s OK to not have people recognize who we are,” Woods said. “If anything, it’s a good thing because the pressure isn’t on us.”
Siguenza believes as the season continues, the team will gain more attention on campus and across Division III.
“What Coach Woods likes is that we’re not noticed right now,” Siguenza said. “But I think pretty soon, people are going to start noticing.”