After completing her first two seasons of college near home at College of the Siskiyous in Weed, Caitlin Bennett will be part of the first women's track and field team at Simpson University in Redding, Calif. The school will compete in the NAIA in the California Pacific Conference starting next season.

Since she first competed in the shot put and discus as a freshman at Etna High School, Caitlin Bennett aspired to someday compete on the four-year collegiate level.

Mission accomplished.

After completing her first two seasons of college near home at College of the Siskiyous in Weed, Bennett will be part of the first women’s track and field team at Simpson University in Redding, Calif. The school will compete in the NAIA in the California Pacific Conference starting next season.

“I’m really excited to be part of this new program,” Caitlin said. “I guess I have a sense of accomplishment since I’ve been wanting to go on and complete in a four-year school since high school."

After a successful throwing career in high school that saw Bennett place first in the discus and shot put at the Northern Section  Division IV championships her senior year in 2018 at EHS, she continued to perform well at COS, located nearby in Siskiyou County down in Weed.

As a freshman last season for the Eagles, she was a NorCal qualifier in the shot put and discus and placed second in the discus and shot put in the Golden Valley Conference Championships.

This season, the year was cut short in March after only three meets due to the COVID-19 pandemic, This year, Bennett was also competing in the hammer throw

“She is hard-working, determined, and extremely coachable,” COS head coach Katie Woodward said. “Her outgoing personality is a bright spot in the throwing group. We were so excited for this season because she has been working diligently to correct some bad technical habits and was showing promise for a breakthrough in the discus.”

She said that Bennett is an excellent student and athlete, as well as being wonderful role models to have on the team. Coach Woodward added that she is excited to see Caitlin compete nearby in Redding and plans  to go down and watch her compete,

Unfortunately, with the season cut short, Bennett said that things were up in the air, and for a time thought she may head to a four-year school but not compete in track and field if an opportunity did not present itself.

She had previously considered going to Simpson. Bennett liked the school, the majors they offered, and the fact that as a Christian, the school was a Christian institution.

But, due to the cost, she had decided she would likely go elsewhere.

Things changed about an academic advisor called Caitlin to check in on her previous interest in the school.

He told her that the school had a women’s track and field program starting next season, and they had just hired a head coach in Anthony Williams, who was previously the jumps coach at Shasta College in Redding. He was officially announced as the new head coach on March 22.

 A short time later, Williams called her up to discuss the possibility of her becoming a member of the school's track and field program. He was familiar with Caitlin from his time at Shasta College and thought she would be a good fit for the program.

Caitlin said she knew of Coach Williams from his time at Shasta College and came away impressed with him as a coach and as a person. When the offer was officially made, Caitlin said she jumped at the opportunity and accepted.

Caitlin said she is grateful to God for making going to Simpson University and competing in the track and field program a reality.

At Simpson, she plans to compete in the discus, shot put, and hammer throw.

On Monday, she had an official signing ceremony.

Fellow COS track and field athlete Hope Dodgen, who competes in the distance races,  officially also signed with Simpson University Monday. She is from the region, having graduated from Big Valley High School in  Bieber. A story on Hope will run in next week’s paper.

“I can't begin to explain how proud I am of these girls,” Woodward said. ”It is wonderful to see them rewarded for all their hard work and sacrifice. I'm just happy our program was able to serve as the springboard these local kids needed to achieve their goals”.

Caitlin said a huge influence on her throwing career has been coach Woodward, who has encouraged her to pursue throwing since high school.

Woodward is Caitlin's dad’s first cousin and was a standout thrower herself at Yreka High School before moving on to compete at Fresno State.

Caitlin said that Woodward has been great a coach and mentor to her at COS and pushed her to be her best.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better coach,” Bennett said. “Her ability to push me to be my best in all aspects of life meant a lot. I thrived on that and to be held to a high standard. I had to always work hard. I wasn’t handed anything.”

While quite disappointed not having the opportunity to complete her finals season at COS, she is excited that she will still be able to compete in track and field at Simpson and is looking forward to improving as an athlete and contribute to the squad.

At Simpson, Caitlin plans to major in business and social science and would like to become a teacher and a coach.