Sweeping Success: WWU Track & Field Is Team Of The Week
Western Washington track and field earned GNAC Team of the Week honors after sweeping the men's and women's titles at the GNAC Championships last week.
Western Washington track and field earned GNAC Team of the Week honors after sweeping the men's and women's titles at the GNAC Championships last week.

Monday, May 13, 2024
by Thomas Lal

PORTLAND, Ore.  – Winning two conference titles in the same week is an impressive feat. Doing so three times over the course of three seasons in the same academic year is something truly special.

That’s exactly what the Western Washington track and field team accomplished last week in Ellensburg as it swept the men’s and women’s titles at the 2024 GNAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships to become the first program in conference history to sweep the cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field championships, earning GNAC Team of the Week honors in the process.

The Viking men claimed the outdoor title with 238 points and were led by titles in five events across both the track and the field. The Viking women tallied 212 points on the way to victory and notched five event wins of their own on the way to the title.

As was the case at the indoor championships, the Vikings excelled in the distance events on both sides of the meet. Kevin McDermott won the 1,500-meter title with a time of 3:51.45, heading up an effort that saw WWU place three runners in the top eight to come away with 13 points.

The Viking men also enjoyed a strong points haul in the 3,000-meter steeplechase where they locked out the top four places. Jeret Gillingham led the way, posting a provisional qualifying time of 8:45.40 to win the race by almost 25 seconds over season-place teammate Jared Alderfer who also ran a provisional time of 9:09.19. Gillingham’s time broke the previous conference record and was good for fifth in Division II this season. The result also won Gillingham the GNAC Men’s Track Performance of the Meet.

The leading pair was followed by Ian Eifert in third and Jalen Javurek in fourth. Matthew Salazar completed the scoring effort for WWU in the event in eighth, making it 30 total points for the Vikings in the race.

While Western Washington didn’t claim the individual title in the men’s 10,000-meter race, the team’s depth shone through as they still came away with 23 points from the event. Andrew Oslin led the way for the Vikings in second place with a time of 31:04.70 and was followed by Ryan Clough in third, Leo Rutledge in fourth and Dylan Lennon in fifth.

In the relays, the Viking men took victory in the 4x400, pipping second place Western Oregon by just under two seconds with a time of 3:17.35. The title-winning squad was comprised of Lucas Brenek, Ryan Greenwalt, and Drew Weber. The win marked the fifth straight title in the event for the program.

In the field events, it was Gabe Menicke who led the way for Western Washington in the jumps as he won the men’s triple jump with a leap of 49’ 1.5”. Menicke’s winning jump came on his third attempt of the day and also stands as an NCAA provisional mark while ranking No. 26 in the nation this season.

Liam Wall claimed top honors in the men’s discus as he launched a throw of 167’ 2” on his fourth attempt of the day to win the event just under 10 feet. The NCAA provisional qualifying mark is a PR for Wall and put the freshman thrower No. 35 in Division II this year.

The GNAC Championships title for the Viking women was fuelled in great part by exceptional performances in the throwing ring. Katie Potts led the charge for WWU, claiming the gold medal in both shot put and discus. Her winning mark of 46’ 4.75” in the shot put is PR and ranks No. 36 in the nation this season. Potts’ effort was followed by two more Vikings in the top four as Mara Parks placed third in the event with a throw of 44’ 2” and Maddy Grandbois finished fourth with a mark of 41’ 2.5”.

It was a dominant performance for Potts in discus as she unleashed a throw of 147’ to win the event by just over seven feet on her second throw of the day. The two individual titles earned Potts selection as the GNAC Women’s Field Athlete of the Meet.

Marian Ledesma represented the Vikings on the top step of the women’s 800-meter podium as she won the event with a time of 2:12.83. She was one of four Vikings in the final and was followed home by Sophie Wright in third, Mia Crocker in sixth and Emmy Kroontje in seventh. As a group, the WWU middle-distance runners took 23 points from the event, the most of any team.

It was a similar story in the women’s 10,000-meter race as Meaera Nystrom claimed the title by almost 25 seconds to lead home three fellow Vikings in the top seven. Nystrom won the event with a time of 37:01.22 and was followed by Emma Smith in third, Danielle McLain in fourth and Alexis Parker in seventh to give the team 23 points.

It was an utterly dominant team performance for the Viking women in the 3,000-meter steeplechase as they swept the top five places in the event. Illa Davis led the way for Western Washington, bringing home the gold medal with a time of 10:41.15 ahead of teammate Ashley Reeck in a time of 11:04.29. Elie Bassett completed the podium in third followed by Laura Halsell and Evelyn Collins-Winn in fifth to give a grand total of 33 points from the event.

With the GNAC Championships in the books, Western Washington now turns its attention to the NCAA Division II Championships which take place in Emporia, Kan., on May 23-25.