Dakota Buhler: On Track to Nationals

Dakota Buhler, a junior at George Fox University (GFU), goes through the same routine most days as she practices to compete for GFU’s indoor and outdoor track and field team. Indoor track is currently in season, and Buhler competes in the long jump, the triple jump, and the 60-meter hurdle.

Currently ranked at number nine in the nation for the NCAA Division III triple jump, Buhler looks forward to what will come of her great start to the indoor season and what it will mean for the outdoor season. With her competitive standing she looks to be one of the top 17 women in the nation invited to compete in the NCAA Division III National Finals.

IMG_9755

Last year Buhler’s outdoor record was 38’ 9” for the triple jump, ranking her at 16th. She  made it to the National Finals, where she finished 12th. This year she is already close to last year’s record with an indoor personal record at 38’ 2.75”.

Buhler is well on her way to the indoor National Finals for Division III in March.

“By making indoor nationals this year, it’s putting me that much closer to an improvement on my last year’s marks,” Buhler said.

At the start of the 2015-2016 outdoor track season, Buhler’s average distance was about 34’ for the triple jump and towards the end of the season she reached the 38’ mark. Starting off strong near the 38’ mark at the start of this indoor season puts Buhler in a promising position for admittance to the Outdoor National Finals, if she maintains her personal records and improves upon them.

IMG_9778
Buhler competes in many other events: the long jump, the 100-meter hurdles, and the heptathlon, which includes the two prior events as well as shot put, triple jump, javelin, 200-meter race, and an 800-meter race.

Buhler has participated in track and field for 12 years. Since fourth grade she has competed in everything from distance running to shot put.

“Triple jump is my one true love,” Buhler said.

In a way, Buhler has spent most of her life on the track:  her mother is a track coach who coached high jump while pregnant with Buhler. She grew up building sandcastles in the jumpers’ sandpits and watching high jumpers from underneath their mat.

Other members of the the GFU women’s indoor track and field team prepare to compete in the National Championship as well.

Rachel Kraske is ranked 5th in the 60-meter hurdles. Annie Wright stands at 5th in the pentathlon. Asia Greene is 5th in the long jump. Sarah King holds the place of 2nd in the 400-meter race.

Christianity Required?

Most students attending GFU profess some kind of Christian faith, be it Quaker, Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, or any number of other denominations. However, a small but significant population of students either align themselves with other religions or identify as agnostic or atheist.

Atheist students, along with other non-Christian students, are not known at George Fox University (GFU) — at least, not in the same way Christian students are.

While GFU promises each student will be known at an individual level, non-Christian students find it difficult to see this pledge lived out, as many professors teach with the assumption that all students in the classroom are Christians.

Some professors may struggle to connect with non-Christian students because of their differences in faith. Professors use “we” and “us” when describing the ideologies and values of Christians, often without recognizing that not everyone in the room may feel like
they belong.

A simple statement like, “I’m going to use ‘we’ when talking about Christians because I’m operating under the assumption that the majority of the class is Christian. If you do not agree with any beliefs addressed or have any questions regarding this, please ask me,” from a professor might do a lot to make students of other faiths more comfortable in class.

By acknowledging that non-Christian students attend this university, GFU can create stronger relationships with these students and work to build an atmosphere of understanding and community.

Another challenging place for non-Christian students is Bible class. One student, who asked to remain anonymous, informed me that in his Bible Survey class, the professor assumed all the students were Christians by asking them to write papers regarding the history of their church, with no alternative offered to students of differing beliefs. The same student shared his experience at GFU, saying, “I find great moments of just dire resentment against what’s being told to me . . . I find moments of real connection . . . to find the good in people, the love.”

These presumptions on the part of GFU, it seems to this writer, do not facilitate an environment where students from differing walks of life can come together and learn from each other’s journeys.

Often, when peers learn of a student’s religious difference, they ask, “Why are you here then?” Scholarship money, convenience, and family influence only skim the surface of that question.

One senior at GFU has been asked this question frequently. “In the end, it shouldn’t matter why people who aren’t Christian come here,” she said, “We are here and have every right to ‘be known’ . . . as
much as anyone else. So the ‘why’ shouldn’t matter. We
are here.”

Creating a space where these students feel comfortable sharing their beliefs should be important to GFU. If GFU created a way to facilitate conversations between these students and other students who are Christian (maybe via a club on campus), understanding could be reached.

This diversity should not be scary. Rather, it should signal our coming together to address unique standpoints. Perhaps opening ourselves to the possibility of learning from one another would create a better Christ-like community. And isn’t that what GFU strives to provide?