This season will be marked as historic for CWU Track and Field. The team is sending a record seven women to the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The women will be accompanied by the sole male athlete, Kodiak Landis, for a total of eight Wildcats. The individuals will travel out to Charlotte, North Carolina for the event between May 24-26.
The athletes going to compete at nationals are Ali Anderson, Halle Irvine, Kodiak Landis, HarLee Ortega, Alexa Shindruk, Mariyah Vongsaveng, Erykah Weems, and Nicole Soleim.
To make nationals, an athlete must finish with a top-20 time or point total in their respective event to compete in that event in Charlotte. Ali Anderson put up the 17th-best time in the 400-meter hurdles, with a time of 1:00.22, and will compete alongside teammate Erykah Weems, who put up the 12th-best time, with 1:00.10 seconds.
Kodiak Landis will compete in the decathlon after putting up the third-best mark in all of Division II this year, with 7,187 points.
Mariyah Vongsaveng recorded a GNAC-leading and 7th-best in Division II time in the 100-meter hurdles, with 13.64 seconds.
With the 10th overall seed at 34:57.08 seconds, Alexa Shindruk enters the 10k.
HarLee Ortega represents CWU in the heptathlon after her 14th place finish in the country, with a score of 4.945 points.
Halle Irvine will compete in the pole vault after finishing 23rd this season, with a mark of 12 feet, six inches. In pole vault, the NCAA took more than 20 competitors due to having leftover spots to fill the total number of female athletes attending, and felt that athletes were particularly stronger just outside the top 20 in the pole vault.
Lastly, qualifying in the 20th spot in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, with a time of 10:48.96, is Nicole Soleim.
Head coach Kevin Adkisson said that a majority of the team was working hard towards a good result at the GNAC Outdoor Championships, but these individuals will cap off a great season.
“It’s the pinnacle of the season for all these athletes. Certainly that’s their focus, as far as getting to nationals and making it their best marks of the year,” Adkisson said.
Two athletes looking to continue their regular season triumphs and build on their personal records are Erykah Weems and Mariyah Vongsaveng.
Weems is the 2018 GNAC Champion in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:00.10. The run was good enough to set a new CWU and GNAC Outdoor Championships record. Weems struggled during the first half of the season leading into the GNAC Indoor Championships, but turned it around the second half.
“I did make it to GNAC [Indoor Championships] and I did have some hiccups there, but I did bounce back and was able to take the title, which I’m really proud of,” Weems said.
Weems ran the 400-meter earlier this season before moving over to the 400-meter hurdles, an event she said needed some work last season.
She picked the event back up on April 13-14 at the Pelluer Invitational where she posted a time of 1:04.76, then improved from there, running a 1:02.29 on April 19-20 at the Bryan Clay Invitational, a 1:00.77 on April 20-21 at the Beach Invitational, a 1:02.43 on May 4-5 at the 2018 Ken Shannon Invitational, and finally her record-breaking 1:00.10 at the GNAC Outdoor Championships on May 11-12.
“This season as a whole was challenging. Indoor [Championship] I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do,” Weems said. “I made sure that wasn’t going to tear me down for Outdoor season.”
Vongsaveng is the 2018 GNAC champion and new GNAC and CWU record holder in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 13.64 seconds. The time was the 7th fastest all-time in NCAA Division II.
Vongsaveng’s goal for National Championships is to come back to Ellensburg as an All-American; she would have to finish in the top eight to achieve this.
“It is nerve-racking, it’s a national meet. I think being mentally prepared for what’s gonna happen is really gonna help,” Vongsaveng said.
Before the 2018 Ken Shannon Invitational on May 4-5, Vongsaveng had not gotten a time under 14 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles yet this season.
At last year’s GNAC Outdoor Championships, she ran a 13.90 in the event. She did not compete in the event until March 3 this season, posting a time of 14.67. At the WAR XI meet on April 6-7, she ran a 14.78, and the week after, she ran her slowest time of the year in the event at the Pelluer Invitational, a 14.87.
She came out the week after that at the Bryan Clay Invitational and ran a 14.34, and improved on her time days later at the Beach Invitational, with a time of 14.15 seconds.
At the 2018 Ralph Vernacchia meet, she ran a 14.52 in the event, her slowest time over the three-week period. This motivated her to running her record time of 13.64 seconds the week after at the Ken Shannon Invitational. She also ran the event at the GNAC Outdoor Championships this season, again running the event in under 14 seconds with a final time of 13.84.
“I’m just excited to be given the opportunity,” Vongsaveng said. “Going with seven other people is a big step for the CWU Track and Field team.”