Students at Western Washington University are entering spring quarter, and the warm weather is just beginning to move in.
For many Washingtonians, once spring arrives in April and May, it is time to pull out the water skis, golf clubs and other equipment and head outside.
Western offers 25 sport clubs with 20 active this spring. The activities range from outdoor land sports such as baseball, tennis, golf and ultimate frisbee to outdoor water sports such as water skiing, wakeboarding, rowing and sailing.
Club sports are activities not associated with the varsity athletic department but are managed by the Campus Recreation Services to bring opportunities for communal enjoyment during the school year.
Eric Negomir, Western’s club water ski president, said there are about 10 members on the team, and they try to get on the water at Lake Samish and Bow Lake at least four days a week for about three hour long practice sessions.
“The team culture is highly competitive but very focused on having fun,” Negomir said. “We have been ranked top-10 in Division I in 2018 and 2019 and won Division II at nationals a few years before, so we have a legacy of high achievement.”
Negomir said the club is focused on the development of new skiers since it was nearly extinct during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The team has been rebuilding in the wake of COVID-19 after losing highly competitive members and a world-renowned coach,” he said. “We had nowhere to ski, no boat to ski behind and only a few members left to pilot the sinking ship.”
Since then, Negomir said the team was able to buy a boat and have been working on getting better.
“Collegiate skiing is the incubator of community members,” Negomir said. “[It’s] a door into the world of water skiing for those who might otherwise not have had the chance. There are significant barriers to entry in water skiing, [and] our mission is to … bring the joys of water skiing to wider populations.”
Ben Clarke, a senior member of the water ski club, grew up having access to a public lake where he wakeboarded and swam. He said he began water skiing the summer before college.
“Now that our team has acquired a boat and isn’t really struggling to gain new interest from people, I hope that we are able to … develop [in] skill so we can compete for Division I again at nationals [later this fall],” Clarke said.
He said he is trying to better himself as an athlete and as a leader, training new recruits and competing in tournaments around the nation while meeting people along the way.
Another club is the golf team, which practices at Sudden Valley Golf Course every Sunday at 10 a.m. Practices, according to club golf president Dylan Hardwick, are between two and five hours, depending on whether the team is playing the course or hitting the driving range and practice greens.
Hardwick said there are 18 rostered members on the squad, and it is a perfect blend of competition and fun.
“We accept players of all skill levels – those who have been playing their whole lives and people who have never picked up a golf club,” he said. “We even have two extra sets of golf clubs to lend if players come in with no equipment.”
Hardwick said golf is a steep learning curve that requires lots of commitment. But, he explained the game is also addictive, and people who start playing end up making it a lifetime sport.
John Farley, a sophomore club golf member, began golfing in middle school but didn’t take it seriously until high school. Farley said when he arrived in Bellingham he wanted to join a club that gave him opportunities to golf while meeting others.
“Usually, it’s just intimidation factors that keep people away [from golf]. They just don’t want to be duffing it all day out on the green in front of people,” Farley said. “We all slice a ball every once in a while off the tee box into the rough, or chunk a chip 10 feet or miss a 2-foot putt. It happens, [but] you have to find the positives.”
Western has not had a varsity men’s baseball team for a few decades, but does offer a club team which has 16 players this season, according to their president, Tyler Weed.
They practice at Inside Pitch, a training facility in Ferndale, three days a week and then at Robert S. Harrington Field or Joe Martin Field one to two days a week.
“Our goal is always to win our conference, make it to the regional tournament and then onto the world series,” Weed said. “We are a competitive club team, but we still like to have fun.”
He explained that anyone is welcome to sign up and try out, but not everyone makes the team. This year, according to Weed, they had a talented team, so making cuts was very difficult.
“Baseball is one of the tougher sports to pick up with no prior experience. And once the season starts, every game matters, so we play starters with very few substitutions unless we get a huge lead,” Weed said.
Taras McCurdie is an aspiring sports journalist who writes for the Front. He is a news/editorial major with a focus in sports reporting. He writes about WWU athletics and other sporting opportunities in the area. Outside of journalism, you can find him playing on the WWU club tennis team or running on the treadmill at the Rec Center. When chilling at night, he listens to throwback slow jams and ’90s hip-hop.