When junior javelin thrower Bethany Drake decided to attend Western after graduating high school, she figured she would be just another student.
Drake had been successful in high school track and field, taking 5th in the state for javelin her senior year; she had not considered a future in college athletics until her high school coach suggested she give it a try.
“It wasn’t until I had chosen Western that I looked into doing track here,” Drake said. “It was more of an afterthought.”
Little did Drake know her decision to leave Sandy, Oregon, for Bellingham would pay off in a major way. Since walking on her freshman year, Drake has received more than 10 awards and honors for her work with a javelin. In 2014, Drake’s hard work was realized and she became the Division II National Champion javelin thrower.
However, things haven’t always been easy for Drake. As a walk-on, it took her time to find her groove. “My first year was a real roller coaster,” Drake said. “I had a lot of absolutely awful meets and a lot of great ones and it wasn’t until sophomore year that I found some consistency.”
Consistency was the key for Drake, and during her sophomore year she was able to compete at a record setting pace, throwing 169-feet-6-inches, breaking the previous school record, and later taking the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field National Title, with a throw of 165-feet-3-inches.
After such a successful season, a lower back injury forced Drake to redshirt last year. During the 2015 season, Drake’s injury was so severe it prevented her from training and throwing.
“I had a stress reaction in my back, basically a step below a stress fracture in one of my vertebrae,” Drake said. “I couldn’t do any exercise other than walking to and from campus,” Drake said.
“She’s a great source of inspiration for people. She goes outside herself and cheers others on, investing herself on where everyone else is standing in the conference or national standings.”
Senior Katie Reichert
Despite being unable to compete, Drake embraced her role as a leader and friend on the team. She attended meets and helped other athletes.
“She’s the type of athlete that you get only so often,” assistant coach David Burnett said. “She dives deep into genuine relationships with other players and you don’t get that with your everyday college student athlete.”
Drake attributes her strength to her faith. An active member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Drake considers herself a christian and sometimes writes a short verse on the side of her throwing hand, so when she adjusts her grip she sees the message.
Drake’s good friend and fellow competitor in javelin, senior Katie Reichert, placed second behind Drake at the 2014 national championship.
“She’s a great source of inspiration for people. She goes outside herself and cheers others on, investing herself on where everyone else is standing in the conference or national standings,” Reichert said.
Having already qualified for nationals this season, Drake and her coaches are focused on her mentality for the competition.
“We’re not too concerned with her breaking any more records, but we work on the process of being successful in certain situations,” Burnett said. “Don’t over think things, have fun and let it come to you.”
Drake is looking forward to the upcoming competitions, and seeing the young talent Western has picked up compete. Two freshmen already rank within the top 10 nationally, joining Drake and Reichert.
“We’ve got quite the group this year, which I’m super excited about,” Drake said. “They’re incredibly hardworking, dedicated girls, which has been so fun to train beside.”
Drake, Reichert and the rest of the team could be poised for another successful season. As an inspiration for the team, a hardworking student and talented javelin thrower, Drake is on track to toss her name into the record books yet again.