Top Marks in California Earn WWU T&F Team of Week Honors
Despite falling, Steen (middle) set a GNAC steeplechase record at Mt. SAC.
Despite falling, Steen (middle) set a GNAC steeplechase record at Mt. SAC.

Monday, April 20, 2015

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – The top athletes on Western Washington University’s men’s and women’s track-and-field teams made the most of their trip to California last weekend to compete in the Mt. SAC Relays, the Azusa Pacific Bryan Clay Invitational and the Long Beach State Beach Invitational.

The result:

Three NCAA automatic qualifying marks. Three Great Northwest Athletic Conference records.  Ten total NCAA qualifying marks.

What it all adds up to is GNAC Red Lion Hotels Team of the Week honors for the Vikings.

“Our goal was to go down there and get in some good performances,” long-time Viking head coach Kelven “PeeWee” Halsell said.  “I’m glad our athletes took advantage of the opportunity and made it happen.”

Setting GNAC records in the two meets were Alex Donigian (Jr., Mission Viejo, CA – Trabuco Hills), Travis Milbrandt (Jr., Longview, WA – Mark Morris) and Katelyn Steen (Sr., Sammamish, WA – Eastlake).

Donigian ran a 10.22 100-meter time at Mt. SAC, cutting .05 seconds off his Division II national leading time he set earlier in the month at the Texas Relays.

Milbrandt twice broke his own GNAC record in the 110 hurdles of 14.71, first running a 14.33 at Mt. SAC and following it up with a 14.30 at Long Beach.

The most impressive performance of the weekend might have been by Steen who ran a time of 10:13.01 in the steeplechase at Mt. SAC to break the GNAC record of 10:13.33 by Alaska Anchorage’s Susan Tanui in 2012.

Steen’s time also ranks second in NCAA Division II and she accomplished it despite falling down with 3 ½ laps to go.

“The determination and grit from this young lady was amazing to watch,” WWU assistant coach David Burnett said.  “She could have stayed down but she got back up and that’s what it’s about some times; when you get knocked down; you get back up with confidence and determination.”

Her steeplechase performance was part of an outstanding double for Steen, who also ran a provisional national qualifying time in the 5000 meters of 16:44.97 at Long Beach, the ninth best time in GNAC history in that event.

The three automatic qualifying marks were by Donigian in the 100, Steen in the steeple and Katie Reichert (Jr., Longview, WA – Kelso) in the women’s javelin. 

Reichert threw the implement a career-best 165-7 at Long Beach, five inches farther than her previous career best and the No. 3 mark this spring in NCAA Division II.  Reichert, who was the NCAA Division II national runner-up last year to teammate Bethany Drake, also ranks third in GNAC history in the event.

Establishing provisional national marks were Milbrandt and Logan Myers (Sr., Olympia, WA – Capital) in the 110 meter hurdles, Matt Lutz (Jr., Bremerton, WA – Olympic) in the steeplechase, Brett Watson (Sr., Ferndale, WA) in both the high jump and long jump and Megan Mortensen (So., Tacoma, WA – Franklin Pierce) in the women’s discus.

Myers ran a 14.56 hurdles time at Long Beach to move into fourth place on the GNAC All-Time Top 10 list.

Lutz’ steeplechase time of 9:12.41 at Long Beach bettered the national standard by 10 seconds, while Watson bettered the NCAA provisional standard in both the high jump (6-8 ¾) and long jump (23-9 ½) at Azusa.

His long jump distance ranks eighth in GNAC history and was nine inches longer than his previous outdoor best though he did leap 23-7 ¼ this past winter in an indoor meet.

Mortensen’s distance in the discus was also an impressive performance.  She has been somewhat of a “breakout star” this spring.  A year ago her best mark was just 131-8.  She had a throw of 154-6 at Long Beach, adding 5 feet, 7 inches to her previous 2015 season best.  That ranks fourth all-time in the GNAC.

“I’m not saying, that was a surprise because we knew she had that in her,” Halsell said.  “But that was big jump and a mark that should get her to nationals.”

Before nationals, Mortensen and her teammates have some other meets to compete in including WWU’s annual Ralph Vernacchia Invitational this weekend in Bellingham and the GNAC championships May 8-9 on the campus of Western Oregon.

The national meet will be held May 21-23 at Allendale, Mich.