From walk-on to record breaker
Megan Mortensen, an environmental science major completing her third year at Western, broke the school record at the University of Washington Invitational on Jan. 29 by throwing 12.69 meters.
Her throw was about three feet longer than the previously held record.
After beginning her track and field career as a mile runner in middle school, Mortensen continued pursuing the sport at Franklin Pierce High School in Tacoma, where she began throwing more seriously.
Mortensen threw for more than just shot put; weight, discus and hammer are also part of her repertoire, depending on the season.
She attended running start for her last two years of high school, eventually choosing Western as her next academic step.
“I chose Western because that’s where I wanted to start my career. Western offered the best academic opportunity for me through Huxley [College of the Environment],” Mortensen said.
Initially choosing Western for academic reasons, Mortensen’s experience as a Viking quickly became dual-purpose after walking onto the track and field team.
“I’m here to go to school,” Mortensen said. “But the first week I was here, I was a bit bored, and I walked into the track office. I said, ‘Hey, can I join the team?’”
Her walk-on career has proven to be a success, allowing her to pursue a sport she enjoys and break records as well. Mortensen’s friends and coaches knew she had broken the indoor record before she had. Her roommate and fellow teammate notified her on the way home.
Mortensen was also the conference champion last year in discus.
With such levels of success comes hard work, too. Viking track and field athletes don’t necessarily slow down when the cold comes; instead they just move indoors.
“We work all year-round,” Mortensen explained. “I think right now we’re only throwing three days a week. We spend as much time with our coaches as we can.”
This year’s winter training has been a bit unconventional, Mortensen said. With the cold outdoor environment and the construction of Sam Carver Gymnasium, the throwers have been training in a room on connected to the Ridgeway Commons.
Despite a unique training facility this season, Mortensen has a strong coaching staff to help nurture her throwing career at Western.
“I’ve had a ton of good coaches,” Mortensen said. “That’s my favorite thing about the track program here. The entire staff honestly cares about all of the athletes.”
Pee Wee Halsell has been the head coach for the track and field teams for the entirety of Mortensen’s career at Western. He has coached the team for 29 seasons.
“[Mortensen] is a junior this year and I think that’s when you can see some leaps and bounds in kids’ performances,” Halsell said. “They totally bought into the program and the program starts to pay dividends.”