The Grand Canyon University track & field program is getting a big boost this year from a handful of recruits the Phoenix school found right in its backyard. And three of the five local athletes fueling the Antelopes’ success are from Chandler High School.
GCU apparently has developed a pipeline of sorts from Chandler High to its track program. The former Wolves now competing for the ‘Lopes include senior Marcus Flannigan, junior Tope Williams, and sophomore William Winfield IV.
And the GCU recruiters didn’t miss out on a Chandler acquisition in the Class of 2016. This year’s roster includes the latest addition, Michael Gonzales, a freshman distance runner.
In addition, former Chandler grads in the program include junior Alexis Roberts (sprints) and sophomore Andrew Okonkwo (jumps).
But those making the biggest contributions right now are Flannigan, Williams, and Winfield.
Flannigan, the state D-I champion in the long jump in his senior year at Chandler, has had an impressive career at the Christian university in west Phoenix. He was the indoor and outdoor long jump champion in the Western Athletic Conference in 2015 and again in 2016, won a WAC title in the 200 meters in 2015, and has won three more titles as a member of the 4×400 and 4×100 relay teams.
Last week he took first place in the 60-meter dash (6.87 sec) at the Air Force Academy Team Challenge and was runner-up in the long jump (7.48 meters), an event in which he leads the conference. He also leads the WAC in the 200-meter dash based on a previous time of 21.86.
Earlier in the schedule, Flannigan finished second in the long jump at the University of Washington Invitational, an event that drew more than 1,000 athletes from around the country. At the Northern Arizona Friday Night Duels, which opened the season, Flannigan won the long jump, beating out two Arizona State jumpers. He also finished fourth in the 60 meters and helped the 4×400 relay team to a third-place finish.
Williams, who was runner-up at the 2014 Division I state meet in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, is off to a fast start in her junior indoor season, posting a time of 7.64 in the 60-meter dash to put her at the top of the WAC standings for that event.
Winfield, who also competes in the 110m and 400m hurdles, set the 60m hurdles best-time mark in the WAC earlier this season at the NAU Duels and then eclipsed that at the UW Invitational with a personal-best time of 8.30. The sophomore continues to improve over his freshman season, when he was named to the WAC indoor and outdoor championship teams.
A couple of other local athletes are also making significant contribution to the ‘Lopes program this season. Aaliyah Cook, a junior from Cactus High School in Glendale, tied for first place in the high jump at the Air Force Academy Team Challenge, breaking her own school record with a leap of 1.69 meters – which is second-best in the WAC. The three-time state champion at Cactus placed third at last year’s WAC Outdoor Championships.
Scott Marshall, a redshirt junior from Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, also broke his own school record with a pole vault of 5.40 meters to finish runner-up in that event at the AFA Challenge. That vault is 13th-best in the nation this season.
GCU had six meets on its schedule to prepare for the Feb. 23-25 WAC Indoor Championships, but the Lumberjack Team Challenge in late January was cancelled due to weather and bad road conditions on the way to Flag. So the ‘Lopes will finish up with the Don Kirby Invitational in New Mexico and then return to Flagstaff for the NAU Tune-up.
Last year, the GCU men’s and women’s teams swept the WAC Indoor Championships in just their third year of competition at the D-I level. The win was the fifth straight indoor championship for the men’s team.
(Photo: GCU Athletics)