By: Aliocha Perriard-Abdoh

Simon Fraser University athletes are setting the bar high for themselves next season, having just come off their most successful year ever in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) division.

The university secured a 15th place finish overall in the 2016–17 season, against over 300 other schools vying for the Learfield Directors’ Cup, awarded to the university or college with the highest success in athletics.

“I would like to say how proud I am of the student athletes and our coaches because — to get a 15th overall — that’s a collective achievement,” said senior athletics director Theresa Hanson, “[that] I think speaks volumes to what we’re doing here at Simon Fraser.”

“I attribute it to the coaches and I attribute it to the athletes, it takes a huge commitment to be successful at academics and athletics,” she noted.

As the only team from Canada in the NCAA, the Clan’s previous best finish was 26th place overall in the 2014–15 season. Last year, the school fell to 55th place in the standings.

However, the athletes have come a long way in the past two years. The university hopes that its current success will attract top athletes to programs at the school.

“I really am a believer that success breeds success,” said Hanson. “You need to get those athletes and some of them are game changers, they come in and you . . . build your team around them.”

SFU joined the NCAA division in 2010 with 11 programs that qualified them for national championships as well as post-season tournaments.

Prior to joining the NCAA, Simon Fraser University dominated the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics awards, winning six titles. Between 1996–2001, the university won the award five times in a row.

It was in 2002 that SFU joined the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association, where they finished second in the 2007–08 season and the 2009–10 season.

This past season, some of the athletics highlights from the men’s competitions were soccer and wrestling. The women’s side made some advances in volleyball, golf, cross-country, and basketball. Both men and women’s teams performed highly in swimming, as well as track and field.

The women’s volleyball and golf programs made their first-ever appearances in the post-season competitions while the cross-country team captured their best placing ever, finishing sixth nationally.

The winner of the season’s Learfield Directors’ Cup was Grand Valley State University with their 12th win in the second division. The school tallied a total of 1,020 points, with high scores in the maximum 14 sports. They won a national championship in women’s cross-country, as well as four runner-up titles.

Some SFU athletics programs that have achieved much recent success are still waiting for a spot in the NCAA. While women’s wrestling has been a highlight for the university, it has only been granted an emerging sport status by the division.

“When I first applied to SFU, I believed that we have all the tools to be a consistent contender in the top ten Learfield Cup, and I really believe that,” Hanson reflected. “I think we’re going to improve. We will continue to do great things, and we have a unique offering here [as] the only Canadian school in the NCAA.”

She continued, “That’s our goal, and that will bode well for [the program’s] future.”