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Monday, May 17, 2021

Familiar face

Pee Wee Halsell, Western’s men’s and women’s track and field head coach, enters his 30th year at Western as the teams aim to top the Great Northwest Athletic Conference after coming up short of a conference title last season.

Halsell’s 30-year coaching career at Western has led the Vikings to 16 different top 20 national meet finishes.

“I’ve seen the track team evolve, but I’ve also seen Western evolve to become a destination university.”

Pee Wee Halsell

 “The athletic department is some of my extended family, as well as Western. I wouldn’t be here for 30 years if I didn’t like it.”

The indoor track season will begin Saturday, Jan. 14, at University of Washington’s Indoor Preview. The indoor season will run until Saturday, Feb. 25, followed by the NCAA Division II Championships in Birmingham, Alabama.

Following the end of the indoor track season, the outdoor season will begin Saturday, March 4, at University of Puget Sound and will continue until Thursday, May 4.

During Halsell’s time as head coach, he has received 15 GNAC Coach of the Year honors.

Halsell has coached nine national champions and guided 92 Vikings to All-American honors.

This past season, the men’s track and field team finished third at the GNAC Indoor Championships and second in the GNAC Outdoor Championships, ending their streak of four consecutive outdoor conference titles.

In the 2016 season the women’s team finished fourth in both Indoor and Outdoor GNAC Championships, while taking 20th place at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, thanks to senior javelin thrower Bethany Drake. Drake finished second in the NCAA Division II Outdoor National Championships and competed in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, where she placed 14th.

“I’ve come from a total walk-on program to having some scholarship money to offer, not that that is the biggest focus for me,” Halsell said. “It’s just a matter of me being able to work with athletes, that’s always been my main focus.”  

During the past offseason, Western hired Bellingham-native and Sehome High School graduate Eric Dudley to join the coaching staff as this season’s assistant coach. Halsell said Dudley will guide the sprinters and hurdlers this season.

“I bring some experience and wisdom from my own school of hard-knocks,” Dudley said. “But what’s really important to our staff is a strong sense of character, character development and modeling values for our student athletes to take into the world.”

Last year, Dudley served as the track and field coach at Sacramento State University where he led pole-vaulters, high-jumpers and worked with multi-event athletes in throwing events.

Before Dudley’s time at Sacramento, he spent seven years as a track and field coach at High Point University in North Carolina. At High Point, Dudley spent three years as an assistant coach and four as associate head coach.

After traveling and living all across the country, Dudley said he is happy to be back in his hometown.

“Bellingham has always had a special place in my heart,” Dudley said. “Being able to return has just been phenomenal.”

The only track and field event in Bellingham this season will be the Ralph Vernacchia Invitational on Saturday, April  29, at Civic Stadium.


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