Longtime WWU XC/TF Coach Halsell Announces Retirement
A 44-time Coach of the Year award winner, Pee Wee Halsell was named a GNAC Coach of the Year 26 times between cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field.
A 44-time Coach of the Year award winner, Pee Wee Halsell was named a GNAC Coach of the Year 26 times between cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field.

Friday, December 16, 2022
by Western Washington Athletic Communications

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – Kelven “Pee Wee” Halsell, the longest tenured head coach in the history of Western Washington University athletics, announced Friday that he is stepping down after 36 years of directing the track and field and cross country programs for men and women.

His WWU tenure began in June 1987. At that time the Vikings competed at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) level before moving to Division II of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 1998.

“I just want to thank Pee Wee for his many years of service,” said WWU Director of Athletics Steve Card. “He has touched the lives of generations of student-athletes, and he will be dearly missed.”

In all, Halsell received 44 Coach of the Year honors while directing the Vikings to 36 team championships. He was most recently selected as the 2022 GNAC Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year and has been the recipient of Men’s Outdoor Coach of the Year award from the GNAC each of the last three seasons. When combining cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field, Halsell has received 26 GNAC Coach of the Year awards dating back to the start of the conference in 2001.

“One thing in particular that I like about track & field and cross country is that they are about the individual becoming a better person, developing their athleticism and not having to depend upon another person,” said Halsell. “You can be as good as you want to be.

“For me the most rewarding part of my job was having student-athletes who wanted to compete and do well,” said Halsell. “It’s been fun helping them grow and go on to becoming productive adults.

“To me the Coach of the Year awards mean the coaches who are helping me out are doing their job, and the athletes are going out and performing at a high level. That’s what makes me proud.”

Halsell coached 10 individual national champions, 28 WWU Athletes of the Year, 18 WWU Scholar-Athletes of the Year, 163 All-Americans, 210 academic All-Americans, 237 conference champions, 385 West Region all-stars, 560 national participants and 630 conference academic all-stars.

Some of the best athletes Halsell coached at Western include Sarah Porter Crouch, who turned professional after being a national champion in the 10,000 meters and a 12-time All-American; Ryan Brown, a four-time national champion pole vaulter; Katelyn Steen, a three-sport All-American; and javelin throwers Bethany Drake and Monika Gruszecki, both two-time national champions, and four-time All-American Katie Reichert.

Under Halsell, Western had 32 top 20 national meet finishes in cross country and 16 in track and field. His women’s cross country team placed fourth (NAIA) in 1992 and sixth (NCAA Division II) in 2015, his women’s outdoor track & field squad sixth in 2011 (NCAA Division II), and his men’s cross country team fourth in 2009 (NCAA Division II). All of those are the highest finishes in school history. The Vikings men’s track & field and cross country programs have captured eight of the last nine conference championships dating back to the 2019 season.

Prior to his arrival at Western, the 65-year-old Halsell, who was born and raised in Texas, was the full-time assistant track coach for eight years at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas, helping the Pioneers dominate the NAIA nationally.

Halsell obtained both his bachelor's (1981) and master's degrees (1985) at Wayland Baptist. He also attended South Plains College (Texas), being a distance runner and later a student assistant coach for a Texans' squad in 1979 that placed fourth at the National Junior College Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

“I came from a situation where I was given an opportunity and it gave me a career,” said Halsell. “I wanted to be able to give opportunities. It is really about teaching kids to take those opportunities. I tell them, ‘Don’t look back,’ You make a decision and you go with it.”

During the summer of 1983, Halsell went to Moscow, Russia, to study track & field techniques in the Soviet Union, He also served two years (2004-06) as president of the Division II U.S. Track Coaches Association for cross country after being the vice-president for two years (2002-04).

Halsell also served as an usher at numerous WWU graduation ceremonies.

A 1976 graduate of Brownfield (Texas) High School, Halsell is an experienced mountain climber, having scaled Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, Mount Adams, Glacier Peak, Mount Shasta and Mount Hood. He and wife Maria, a nurse at Peace Health St. Joseph’s Hospital who was a NAIA national champion javelin thrower at Wayland Baptist, have two daughters, Sarah and Laura.

Western assistant Ben Stensland has been appointed by Steve Card as the interim head coach for track & field and cross country.