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WWU track and field earns pair of top-10 finishes at indoor nationals

Vikings' women's runners lead the way with five All-America honors

Western Washington University senior Marian Ledesma runs in the women's 800-meter finals Saturday, March 9 in Pittsburg, Kansas. Ledesma finished eighth, earning First-Team All-America honors. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Ngo/WWU Athletics)
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

Western Washington University track and field earned a pair of top-10 finishes at the NCAA Division II Indoor National Championships March 8–9 in Pittsburg, Kansas, led by its women’s runners.

Senior Marian Ledesma earned First-Team All-America honors with her eighth-place finish in the women’s 800-meter race, clocking a time of 2:12.23. Ledesma entered the finals with the second-fastest prelim time (2:08.57) among all runners — resetting her own school record in the event by more than a second.

“I was really excited about Marian and her prelim time. That was an exciting race,” Western head coach Ben Stensland said. “That was, hands down, much faster than she’s ever ran in indoor in the 800.”

Stensland added that the team came into the national meet with lofty expectations, which is what they wanted. He said the group’s biggest lesson was realizing how tough NCAA Division II is at the national level, but that it’s just made the program hungrier to get more athletes to the biggest stage.

“Our biggest takeaway from the weekend was that we do belong there,” Stensland said. “I think it was a great experience for a handful of those athletes that are coming back … There’s a little bit of a renewed fire to get after things this spring.”

The Vikings’ women’s distance medley relay (DMR) team of sophomore Emmy Kroontje and juniors Sophie Wright, Caitlyn Cheney and Ila Davis finished ninth with a time of 11:30.31 — marking the second top-10 finish for Western.

Western Washington University junior Caitlyn Cheney hands off to sophomore Emmy Kroontje Friday, March 8 in the women’s distance medley relay. The quartet finished ninth, just outside of a podium placement. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Ngo/WWU Athletics)

Ledesma, Wright, Kroontje, Cheney and Davis were the first Western women’s athletes to compete at indoor nationals since 2019.

While still earning Second-Team All-America honors, the group was less than eight-tenths of a second behind a podium finish. Mississippi College (11:29.55) edged the Vikings for eighth place.

“That DMR team definitely had some high expectations and some high hopes, and it just didn’t quite come together that weekend,” Stensland said. “But they’re all in good spirits and that much more motivated to get after the spring season.”

Junior Kevin McDermott, the lone men’s team representative from Western, competed in the 3,000- and 5,000-meter races at the national meet. McDermott owns the indoor school record in the 3,000-meter run (7:59.27), achieved earlier this season, but he fell well short of that mark with a 16th-place finish and a time of 8:27.38.

Midway through the race, around four minutes and 30 seconds in, McDermott was tripped up — falling from seventh place at the time all the way back to 16th. His personal best time would have placed him fifth.

Western Washington University’s Kevin McDermott runs in the men’s 3,000-meter race Saturday, March 9 in Pittsburg, Kansas. McDermott finished 12th in the 5,000-meter race and 16th in the 3,000-meter run. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Ngo/WWU Athletics)

“Kevin definitely walked away with some battle wounds there, and that was tough to see because he was definitely primed and ready to get after that [race],” Stensland added. “The race was going pretty well up until that point, too, for him. He said he was feeling really comfortable and confident going into the latter part of that race.”

McDermott did, however, earn Second-Team All-America honors with his 12th-place finish in the 5,000-meter race (14:16.91). His personal best was 13:50.77, ran earlier this season, which would have been good enough for a national title.

With two outdoor meets already complete, Western’s national-qualifying athletes will now re-join the rest of the team. They will have a short break as the next meet isn’t until March 22–23 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, for the Oregon Preview.

“I do think you’re going to continue to see some progress on the number of athletes that we’re qualifying [for nationals],” Stensland said. “I’m really excited and really proud about where we’re at and more proud about where we’re going.”

Connor J. Benintendi is CDN’s sports editor; reach him at; 360-922-3090 ext. 104.

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