For the first time in program history, Western Washington University's outdoor track and field team won on both the women's and men's sides at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships. On May 12 and 13, the Vikings competed against eight other top colleges at the McArthur Stadium in Oregon.
The men's team won their 10th team title and fourth in a row while the women's team won their first title in the 20-year history of the program after being runner-ups in both the 2021 and 2022 outdoor GNAC championships. This marks the fifth time in the history of the GNAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships that both the women’s and men’s teams from the same university have won.
“I felt really good about my performance," freshman Maurice Woodring said. “I felt great because it was not only a college PR, but a lifetime PR.”
Woodring won the 400-meter hurdles with a top-10 program time and was part of both first-place relay teams.
“It felt really good to peak right at the end of the season and run my best time and then also come out with a win, especially as a true freshman,” he said.
The team celebrated winning the conference but then got straight back to business. Directly after the 100-meter hurdle race, Woodring ran in the four by four hundred meter relay.
“It felt good," he said. "It definitely brought my energy up even more, but the meet wasn’t done, and the job wasn’t finished yet. So, I really locked in on that four by four right after the hurdles.”
Woodring is intentional with how he mentally prepares for a competition.
“I write down my goals: what I plan on doing, what I’m trying to achieve at the meet. Then I say these goals out loud,” he said.
He reads his goals consistently, every day.
“At the beginning of the season, I had it written on my mirror,” he said. “I had, ‘I will win outdoor GNAC in the 400-meter hurdles.’”
Woodring enjoys the obstacle of a hurdle in the middle of a race. He likes the technique aspect that requires proper form and rhythm.
“I love the challenge, I love the game and I love the hustle,” Woodring said. “Hurdle kind of found me, or we kind of found each other when I first started running track.”
Sophomore Raine Westfall won first in the hammer throw event.
“I’m really happy with what happened," she said. "I mean I placed first, so I can’t be upset with that."
Westfall struggled with a shoulder injury all outdoor season.
“I hadn’t hit near where my personal record was," she said. "I'm just really happy that I was able to beat it this year in the final meet, and it was amazing to get to share that experience with all the other women who were competing that day.”
She got pneumonia right after the winter indoor season and had to take two weeks off training.
“I was really worried that it was gonna put me out of my season at first, but I just believed in my training and confidence and was able to pull something out,” she said.
Westfall came from a high school with a graduating class of 16 people.
“It was a shock to be surrounded by real athletes, to be competing at a collegiate level, so I’ve always really struggled with coming to a meet and not freaking out,” she said.
She has worked her anxieties out by reminding herself that she is competing against herself.
“The approach I like to take to meets is to come with an attitude of trust in my training and preparation,” Westfall said. “I’m a beast, and I'm not gonna let anyone take my title from me.”
To Westfall, throwing is a meditative practice.
“It’s so much more of a feel thing than it is a technique thing like the other events,” she said.
Junior Matty Lagerwey placed 2nd in the long jump.
“I felt pretty good," she said. "I got a couple PRs in hurdles and javelin. I didn’t do well in long jump, which is my main event, but I still got second so that was pretty OK with me.”
After her second-place win, Lagerwey felt satisfied but still hungry for more.
“I try to just keep the same routine every meet. I tell myself, ‘I've done this before, I can do it again.’ I try to stay positive and visualize what I need to do,” she said. “I'm at the point in my career where I know exactly what I need to do, so at this point, I’m just visualizing everything I need to do, going through the motions in my head and trying to translate it physically. But also trying not to overthink, finding that balance there.”
Lagerway enjoys the explosiveness and mix of sprinting and jumping in her main event.
“I love the variety of things I get to do. Being an athlete, I get to try a lot of the field events and a lot of the running events,” she said.
To Lagerwey, the track and field team feels like one big family.
“You make a lot of friends across not just the team but the conference as a whole," she said. "Track is a really friendly sport, it’s very social, and I think it’s a nice, friendly competition where everyone is trying really hard to beat each other… Western is super special in the way that we bring Western Viking pride to every meet.”
Lagerwey wanted to highlight the adversity that both the men’s and women's cross country and track and field teams have overcome this year with not having a head coach and losing a sprint coach. Ben Stensland took over as interim head coach.
“He’s one man pretty much coaching 100 plus people,” Lagerwey said.
The win was a group effort.
“I think the team has done a really good job of adapting to everything this year has thrown at us,” Lagerwey said. “Definitely a really awesome team effort, and we couldn’t do it without Ben, and we couldn’t do it without each other.”
Stensland said he couldn’t be more proud.
“I love this team,” Stensland said. “We’ve battled through adversity and stayed true to our values: attitude, effort and community. It’s a wonderful feeling to see our team buy into those values and then put it all together.”
Stensland said the year presented challenges, but also opportunities.
“These championship wins are a testament to the incredible individuals who have come together as a team to accomplish something that we have never done before,” he said.
Junior Jaydon Tryon won first in the javelin event.
“I personally haven’t seen anything like it from any team I’ve been on where everybody was just so locked in and supportive of every single person,” he said.
Tryon's event was one of the first on Saturday, the second day of the competition. During his throw, the team watched.
“During my last three throws, a lot of the team that was there started to goof around and cheer me on,” Tryon said. “The throws don’t typically get a lot of people watching, so that was really cool.”
Tryon said it was awesome to have everybody’s support.
“The last event of the day, the four by four relay, we had our entire team on the corner right before the last 100 meters,” he said. “And every time one of our runners passed, we would get a big chant going, and it led to a win on our guys’ side and all that support led to our first women’s team win as well, so that was pretty sweet.”
Malia Fraser (she/her) is a sports reporter for The Front. She is studying journalism and environmental studies. In her free time, she loves to run and take care of her many plants. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.