Correa, Esvelt Are GNAC Track Athletes Of The Year

Friday, May 31, 2024
by Evan O'Kelly, Assistant Commissioner For Communications

PORTLAND, Ore. – After posting headline performances at the 2024 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Central Washington’s Johan Correa and Seattle Pacific’s Annika Esvelt have been named the 2024 GNAC Outdoor Track & Field Athletes of the Year.

Correa became just the second man in CWU history to claim GNAC Outdoor Track & Field Men’s Athlete of the Year, joining 2004 co-winner Justin Lawrence. Esvelt meanwhile joined a lineage of success by the Falcons, becoming the eighth woman in SPU history to claim the Women’s Athlete of the Year award.

CWU’s Emy Ntekpere claimed the Women’s Freshman of the Year award, and her teammate Isabella Haarer was named the Women’s Newcomer of the Year. Joshua Caleb of Alaska Anchorage earned the Men’s Freshman of the Year, and Andrew Nelson of Western Washington was selected as the Men’s Newcomer of the Year. After leading Western Washington to both the women’s and men’s outdoor team titles, Ben Stensland was voted by his peers as both the women’s and men’s Coach of the Year.

Correa capped his stellar sophomore season with the Wildcats by racing to a fourth-place finish in the 800 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Correa was the top finisher in the preliminary round, before running a personal-best time of 1:49.35 in the finals to finish as a first-team All-American in fourth place. That time was the fastest by a GNAC runner this spring, and stood as the seventh-fastest time in GNAC history. Correa’s spring season also included a GNAC Championships title in the 800 meters and a fourth-place conference finish in the 1,500 meters.

Esvelt competed for a national title in the 10,000 meters, finishing as the silver medalist in that event at the NCAA Championships. Esvelt clocked a time of 34:18.07, finishing behind only NCAA champion Florance Uwajeneza of West Texas A&M. The Falcon senior wasn’t finished there, as she cruised to a seventh-place finish in the 5,000 meters on the final day of the national championships, with a time of 16:54.06. Esvelt claimed first-team All-America honors in both races. Her Athlete of the Year campaign included the GNAC title in the 5,000 meters and a bronze medal in the 1,500 meters. She also hit a PR of 33:41.59 in the 10,000 meters earlier this spring, which was the fourth-fastest in GNAC history. Esvelt is the first Falcon since Renick Meyer in 2021 to claim the conference’s top female outdoor athlete award.

Ntekpere capped her stellar debut collegiate season with her first-ever NCAA Championships appearance. Competing in the high jump, Ntekpere finished in 17th place clearing a bar set at 5-5.25 feet (1.66 meters). Ntekpere’s highlight season also included a GNAC gold medal in the triple jump, a silver medal in the long jump and a fourth-place finish in the heptathlon. She became the fifth woman in GNAC history to sweep both the GNAC Indoor Freshman of the Year and GNAC Outdoor Freshman of the Year awards, and the first since SPU’s Meyer in 2018.

Caleb continued his record-breaking campaign during the 2024 outdoor season, as he joined Ntekpere in sweeping both the indoor and outdoor GNAC Freshman of the Year accolades. The highlight of Caleb’s season came in the form of a GNAC-record 400 meters time of 46.73 seconds, which broke the previous mark by nearly a full second. Caleb then proceeded to break the GNAC Championships meet records in both the 100 meters (10.28 seconds, +4.0) and 200 meters (21.04 seconds), figures that rank second and third, respectively on the all-time GNAC performance lists. An injury as he crossed the finish line in first place in the 100 meters at the GNAC Championships may have hindered his NCAA Championships performance, but Caleb still managed honorable mention All-American finishing 12th in the prelims with a time of 46.89 seconds.

Nelson stood out in the javelin in his first season at Western Washington after transferring from Grand Canyon University. The junior hit a collegiate PR throw of 199-1 feet (60.69 meters) on April 5 at the Doris Heritage Invitational. He capped his season with a bronze medal at the GNAC Championships, finishing just off his PR with a throw of 198-8 feet (60.55 meters).

Haarer was a welcome addition to the Wildcats’ pole vault unit, standing out in her first season at CWU. Haarer participated in eight events throughout the 2023-24 campaign, including both the indoor and outdoor championships. Saving her best effort for last, Haarer cleared a PR height of 10-0.75 feet (3.07 meters) at the GNAC Outdoor Championships which was good enough for a sixth-place finish.

In his second season piloting the Vikings’ track and field program, Stensland led his school to unprecedented success. In claiming both the women’s and men’s team titles at the GNAC Outdoor Championships, WWU became the first school since the conference was founded in 2001 to sweep all six cross country, indoor track and outdoor track team trophies during the same academic year.

The GNAC outdoor track & field special awards are voted on by the conference’s head track & field coaches. Student-athletes who finished in the top-three at the conference meet, including as part of a relay team, earned all-conference accolades.