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WWU track and field ‘fired up’ to reclaim GNAC indoor title

At first meet, team recorded 18 individual marks that ranked top-10 in program history

Western Washington University's Kevin McDermott (2) competes in the 3
Western Washington University's Kevin McDermott (2) competes in the 3 (Jonah Bloom)
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

The Western Washington University indoor track and field season kicked off on Saturday, Jan. 13 in Seattle, and the Vikings already have their sights set on the national meet in March. 

Western track and field interim head coach Ben Stensland said the season’s first meet, the UW Preview at the Dempsey Indoor athletic complex, was a “great start” with the team recording 18 individual marks that ranked top-10 in program history.

“Overall, I think everybody did really well,” Stensland said. “We went into the meet with really the expectation of just learning something, you know, getting our first data points and seeing where we’re at.”

While Stensland said he wouldn’t classify the indoor season as a warm-up for the longer, outdoor schedule, it is a time for athletes, especially throwers, jumpers and sprinters, to get back in the swing of competition. 

Most of the team’s distance runners have the luxury of getting into shape during the fall cross country season. Assistant coach and cross country lead T.J. Garlatz also helps prepare the athletes, Stensland said.

“T.J. definitely has that group rolling pretty fast, which is pretty cool,” Stensland added. “For the rest of the crew, our sprints and jumps and throws — it’s so much work going into the start of the season.”

This year’s indoor season, only six meets in a span of three months, still has a national meet to cap it off. 

photo  Western Washington University’s Katie Potts loads up a throw during the weight throw event. Potts broke her own school record in the shot put at the UW Preview with a mark of 13.82/45-4.25. (Photo courtesy of Jonah Bloom/WWU Athletics)  

Last season, four men’s runners (Drew Weber, Brian Le, Jonah Bloom and Will Henry) competed at nationals in the distance medley relay and finished seventh — the second-highest finish by any Western indoor relay team in program history. This year’s indoor national meet is March 8–9 at the Robert W. Plaster Center in Pittsburg, Kansas.

The outdoor season is 16 meets, including the postseason, in just under three months, with outdoor nationals May 23–25 at Welch Stadium in Emporia, Kansas.

“We’re definitely best suited for outdoor, but we have a bunch of competitive people,” Stensland said. “[The indoor season] is another opportunity to just go out and compete. Every opportunity we get, we’re going to lay it on the line.”

Junior thrower Katie Potts headlined Western’s performances at the UW Preview, breaking her own indoor school record in women’s shot put with a mark of 13.82/45-4.25. The mark shattered her previous best (12.83/42-1.25) by almost a meter, and Potts took third overall out of 18 throwers.

“I think she even surprised herself there,” Stensland said. “She’s been working really hard.”

Two men’s runners moved up to No. 2 in program history with senior Ryan Greenwalt in the 60-meter dash and junior Kevin McDermott in the 3,000-meter run. 

Greenwalt recorded a time of 6.87 seconds in the prelims while McDermott earned an NCAA provisional qualifying mark with his distance time of 8:10.96. McDermott is fresh off a trip to cross country nationals where he finished 90th out of 260 runners.

photo  Western Washington University’s Ila Davis competes in the 3,000-meter run at the UW Preview. Davis’ time of 9:45.70 ranked third all-time in program history. (Photo courtesy of Anders Norman/WWU Athletics)  

“It’s a long season, so we’re putting a lot of emphasis on building our strength now so we can compete deep into the spring,” McDermott said. “Being able to race this well off the kind of hard training we’ve been doing is a great way to start the year and puts us in a great position to build off these early season performances.”

Sophomore Emmy Kroontje, a Lynden High School alum, recorded a time of 2:15.11 in the 800-meter run to rank third in program history. Fellow sophomore Ila Davis also ran the 3,000-meter run in 9:45.70 to rank third in program history. Davis also ran at cross country nationals, finishing 53rd in the country out of 260 runners. 

A full recap of all the Vikings’ top performers at the UW Preview is available on Western Athletics’ website.

McDermott said the real test begins Feb. 19–20 at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Indoor Championships at The Podium in Spokane. Last season, both the men’s and women’s teams finished second overall behind Western Oregon. 

“Everyone is fired up to bring the title back to Bellingham where it belongs,” McDermott said.

Western’s next indoor meet will be Jan. 26–27 at the UW Invitational, which is also held at the Dempsey Indoor complex in Seattle.

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