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By Hillary O'Connor   The Western men’s indoor track team is looking for a shot at redemption this season after placing seventh out of 10 teams in the 2017 Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships. The Vikings will compete in seven indoor meets this season before they can return to the GNAC championships on Feb. 16 in Nampa, Idaho. As the season starts, the young team is making strides to develop as a group, junior long jumper Rudy Mataya said. “We have a couple of people redshirting and a couple of people that graduated that scored a lot of points, so we will need some of the younger guys to step up,” Mataya said. “Every year the goal is to win conference, so doing that this indoor season will be harder than usual but it’s our goal.” [caption id="attachment_20806" align="alignleft" width="300"] Western men's track team has hopes of a conference title in 2018. // Photo by Taylor Nichols[/caption] Senior thrower Brandon Pless said he’s hopeful the team can rebound this season. “I’m hoping that we will be able to win conference again after being close [in 2016],” Pless said. Junior pole vaulter J.T. Konrad returns this season after redshirting in 2017. At the 2016 GNAC championships Konrad took second place in the pole vault. Konrad said he’s working on strength and conditioning to improve on his success from 2016. “I’m looking forward to a fresh season after a yearlong break,” Konrad said. “I’ve been working hard in the early season and seeing improvements in the weight room as well as on the track. It’s going to be a great year.” With his added development, Konrad said he has record-breaking hopes this season. “I want to jump above 17 feet 8 inches and take the school record, as well as my place at nationals,” Konrad said. “My renewed focus and drive within workouts and competition, along with the support of the team, are going to make this goal achievable. We have a great looking team this year, all hard working people with serious goals.” Junior long-distance runner James Jasperson is also coming off a redshirt season. “I didn’t get the chance to race last season, I only trained alongside the team,” Jasperson said. “So I can really only go forward from here.” Jasperson is looking to cut down his mile time this indoor season. “I would like to place in the conference indoors,” Jasperson said. “But that’s only to help the team score, and to have a shot at the team title at GNACs in Nampa.” The team competed in their first indoor meet of the 2018 season on Saturday, Jan. 13. Both the men and women traveled to the University of Washington Preview at the Dempsey Indoor facility. Two athletes broke into the Western record books Saturday afternoon. Freshman thrower Ben Malquist moved to seventh all-time in Western’s history with a shot put throw of 49 feet 8.5 inches. Junior jumper Tupre Wickliff is now tied for eighth all-time in Western’s history with a high jump of 6 feet 4.75 inches.


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