LANGLEY, British Columbia – Trinity Western track and field and cross country head coach Rob Pike officially announced the commitment of nine athletes for his 2017 recruiting class Thursday.


The group includes sprinters Ben Tjernagel (New Westminster, B.C.) and Matt Van Eeuwen (Richmond, B.C.), pole vaulters Giovanni Hernandez (Tepic, Mexico) and Maddie Li (Markham, Ont.), multi-eventer Dominic Luccock (Delta, B.C.) and middle distance runners Bailey Haugan (Fort St. John, B.C.), Jouen Chang (Langley, B.C.), Matt Thomson (Metchosin, B.C.), and Paul Buckingham (Langley).


Paul Buckingham (Langley, B.C.)

The defending Canada West champion Spartans men’s cross country and middle distance teams will continue to have a distinct local flavour as Buckingham joins an already strong Langley contingent at TWU.


Buckingham, who will graduate from Walnut Grove Secondary this year, finished 13th in the 1500m and 15th in the 800m at the 2016 BC High School Championships. The previous year, at the 2015 BC High School Championships, he finished second in the 1500m steeplechase.


“Paul is a hard-working and driven individual and will be a fantastic fit within our team,” Pike said. “He’s a great kid and will be a selfless team player.”


Buckingham plans to study human kinetics at TWU.


Jouen Chang (Langley, B.C.)

The local middle distance runner comes to TWU with a strong background in both the steeplechase and the 3000m. Chang, who will graduate from Credo Christian High School this year, has a personal best of 10:31 in the 3000m, and last year finished fifth in the 1500m steeplechase and sixth in the 3000m at the BC High School Championships.


“Jouen works hard and has clearly shown that she is constantly committed to improving,” Pike said. “She’s kind of like Joanna Williams (Campbell River, B.C.) in that she just goes about her work and is very coachable, which is exactly the type of athlete we love to have on our team.”


Chang plans to study sciences at TWU.


Bailey Haugan (Fort St. John, B.C.)

Haugan comes to the Spartans from Fort St. John, B.C., following the “Northern Town to TWU” trail first blazed by Fiona Benson (Dawson Creek, B.C.), who is the Spartans most famous track and field alum. On the cross country trails, the 5-foot-9 Haugan most recently finished 35th amongst junior women at the Canadian Cross Country Championships.


On the track, Haugan, who graduates from North Peace Secondary this year, finished eighth in the 3000m at the 2016 BC High School Championships.


“Bailey has great potential and I think she can make a key impact in her first year,” Pike said. “We’ve had great success in finding some fantastic distance runners from some smaller, northern communities – namely Fiona, Regan (Yee, South Hazelton, B.C.) and Mirelle (Martens, Grande Prairie, Alta.) – and we think Bailey has the chance be the next one in that impressive line of talent.”


Haugan, who plans to study human kinetics at TWU, is also the youngest person to ever complete the Canadian Death Race, after finishing the 125km ultramarathon as a 16-year-old.


Giovanni Hernandez (Tepic, Mexico)

Hernandez, who hails from Tepic, Mexico, comes to the Spartans with a pole vaulting pedigree that instantly makes him a national championship favourite. The 5-foo1-11 Hernandez, who spent his last two years at Mt. San Antonio College, has a personal best of 5.20m, which is nearly 20 centimetres higher than the 5.02m vault that won this year’s U SPORTS title.


Last year, in his sophomore season at Mt. SAC, Hernandez finished first at both the California Community College State Championships and the SoCal Community College Championships. While at Mt. SAC, Hernandez trained under two-time Olympic pole vaulter Giovanni Lanaro, who himself, when he as an athlete, was coached by Pike before the Spartans coach came to TWU.


“We’re really excited about Giovanni and what he can bring to our team,” Pike said. “I have immense respect for Gio (Lanaro) and we share similar philosophies, so when he says to take this guy (Hernandez), you take him. Giovanni will immediately improve our pole vaulting group and will be a great fit for our team.”


Hernandez plans to study psychology and sports science at TWU.


Maddie Li (Markham, Ont.)

The 5-foot-4 pole vaulter will follow in her sister’s footsteps to TWU, as the younger Li will join Emma with the Spartans track and field team. Like Emma, Maddie comes to TWU as a burgeoning pole vault star with a personal best of 3.51m.


The younger Li, who will graduate from Bill Crothers Secondary this year, earned a silver medal at the 2016 Legion National Youth Track & Field Championships. She currently trains at Bolton Pole Vault in Ontario.


“Obviously we know that family and we know her sister, so we’re really excited to bring another Li into the Spartans family,” Pike said. “I think she has high potential as a vaulter and is a great kid, who will definitely make our team better.”


Li plans to study business administration at TWU.


Dominic Luccock (Delta, B.C.)

Luccock, who graduates from Seaquam Secondary this year, will immediately improve the Spartans multi-event group as the 5-foot-11 decathlete brings an already decorated athletic résumé to TWU.


Luccock has a personal best of 5,143 points in the decathlon, which he posted while earning a silver medal at the 2016 BC Athletics Championships Jamboree. He also won a bronze medal in the decathlon at the 2016 BC High School Championships.


“Dominic is your typical multi-eventer in that he’s a hard worker and just puts his head down and grinds away,” Pike said. “He’s very coachable and, in some brief interactions at the track, it’s evident that he’s keen to learn and will put in the effort to improve, which bodes very well for his long-term potential.”


Luccock plans to study sciences and eventually nursing at TWU.


Matt Thomson (Metchosin, B.C.)

The 5-foot-10 Thomson will help bolster the Spartans prestigious middle distance program as the product of Metchosin, B.C. comes to TWU with an already impressive running pedigree. Thomson, who will graduate from Royal Bay Secondary School in Victoria, B.C. this year, finished fourth in the 2000m steeplechase at the 2016 BC High School Championships. On the indoor track, he captured gold in the 1500m and silver in the 600m at the 2016 Harry Jerome Indoor Games.


“Matt is a blue collar kid, who we believe has tons of potential,” Pike said. “He has kind of flown under the radar and we think he has a lot of room to grow as an athlete. We’ve seen middle distance athletes in similar circumstances to Matt come to TWU and really flourish under coach Mark Bomba. I think Matt could develop in a similar manner as a Spartan.”


Thomson plans to study psychology and sociology at TWU.


Ben Tjernagel (New Westminster, B.C.)

Tjernagel is the latest in an impressive line of sprinters from the Coquitlam Cheetahs Track and Field Club to join the Spartans, following the likes of Coquitlam, B.C. products Nathan George, James Linde and Nick Ayin. The 5-foot-11 Tjernagel has a personal best of 11.09 in the 100m and 22.59 in the 200m. As a Grade 11 student, he finished fifth in 100m and sixth in the 200m at the 2016 BC High School Championships.


Tjernagel, who will graduate from New Westminster Secondary, where he also played on the football team, was named his high school’s Athlete of the Year in 2016.


“Ben has really impressive potential as a sprinter,” Pike said. “He comes from a strong sprinting program in Coquitlam, coached by Tara Self, which has consistently been putting athletes on national teams. With that in mind and the fact that he’s relatively young in his track and field career, we’re really excited about what Ben could achieve at TWU.”


Tjernagel, whose sister Lexi recently graduated after representing the Spartans in track and field, plans to take general studies in his first year at TWU.


Matt Van Eeuwen (Richmond, B.C.)

A product of Richmond, B.C, Van Eeuwen, who will graduate from R.C. Palmer this year, joins the Spartans as a sprinter/hurdler with a personal best time of 9.27 in the 60m hurdles and 15.10 in the 110m hurdles. At the 2016 BC High School Championships, the 6-foot-1 Van Eeuwen finished seventh in the 110m hurdles. He went on to finish 14th at the 2016 Legion National Youth Track & Field Championships.


“Matt is a special kid, who is incredibly enthusiastic and wants to push himself to the very edge of his abilities,” Pike said. “He is a really hard-worker and will be a great culture fit for our team.”