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Vikings track & field compete to earn spots at Division II National Championship

Western Washington University track & field set new records and prepare for nationals at Ken Shannon Invitational

Junior Viking athlete Leanne Kibbee vaults a number of hurdles at her race during the 2021 GNAC combined championship. Kibbee has been competing with Viking Track and Field since 2018. // Photo courtesy of Jacob Thompson

The Western Washington University Vikings track & field team just finished competing at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Multi-Championships and the Ken Shannon Invitational at the University of Washington. 

The championship featured WWU athletes in all events. The athletes strived for breaking records in the Western history books. 

In the men’s decathlon, second-year Cooper Cummings placed 5th overall with 5,916 points, which put him just outside the WWU all-time top-10. 

First-year Ryan Kenny placed seventh out of the 10 competitors, which included his best collegiate-marks of the season in javelin and 110m hurdles. 

In the women’s decathlon, second-year Leanne Kibbee placed 8th with her personal best of 3,840 points for the team. 

Kibbee came into day two of the competition after setting personal bests in the 200m, shot put, javelin and the 800m. 

On May 7, when WWU’s men and women’s outdoor track team competed at the Ken Shannon Invitational, they were attending the last event before the championships. 

In 2019, the Vikings swept the championships when they achieved team titles across cross country and indoor track and outdoor track. The fourth-year cross country and track athlete Eric Hamel is hopeful that they can do it all over again this year. 

“Going into this weekend [GNAC Championship], we hope to continue this winning streak as we have not had the opportunity to compete for a team title in a long time,” Hamel said. “I am looking forward to more WWU track athletes being represented at the national championships in the future.”

Fourth-year runner Mac Franks competed alongside Hamel at the invitational and set a personal record in the 1500m. 

“I ran a 3:49.47, which is a personal record by .01 sec and also a provisional mark for Division II nationals,” Franks said. 

Franks also competed in the 3000 meter steeplechase. For Franks, steeplechase is a very unique event, and he tries his best to have fun during the race. 

“There’s no other race in track [and field] like [steeplechase],” Franks said. “[There is] no other race where you have to jump over wooden barriers and into a water pit all during 3000 meters of running. It’s one of the more exciting distance events to watch for sure and it’s even for fun to run in.”

Due to COVID-19, all Viking athletes received a free year of athletic eligibility due to the new NCAA bylaw. Frank and other Vikings are returning next year to continue their athletic success. 

“Many of us will get to come back next year and compete which is a great opportunity to get even faster and stronger,” Franks said. 

Another first-year Jared Alderfer competed at the invitational and set a new personal best in the 5K. 

“Last weekend I got a new PR in the 5k, running a 15:06 [and] breaking my last time of 15:12,” Alderfer said. 

Alderfer said some of the runners for cross country and track will be moving to Flagstaff, Arizona. 

“Many of the best athletes in America go there to train at high altitude,” Alderfer said. 

To end the event, first-year Jeret Gillingham set a freshman record at Western in the steeplechase. 

“I set the freshman steeplechase record running 9:03 and won the race,” Gillingham said. “My teammates Mac Franks and Kaleb Korta got 2nd and 3rd for a Western sweep.”

The Vikings’ track & field team head into the championships with their sights on sending many athletes to the Division II National Championships. 

Lucas Bohannon is a third-year visual journalism student and reporter for The Front. His section is sports and Esports-related news. His writing has appeared in the Current for Green River College and his Twitter is @Kingg_Luke. 

Lucas Bohannon

Lucas Bohannon is a third-year visual journalism student and reporter for The Front. His section is sports and Esports-related news. His writing has appeared in the Current for Green River College and his Twitter is @Kingg_Luke. 


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