By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

Records broken in CWU track and field

Track and field has reaped the rewards of their work over the last couple weeks as five athletes were awarded with Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) Field Athlete of the Week honors during the weeks of Jan. 15 and Jan. 22 after many notable performances.

Among these athletes is freshman pole vaulter Lauryn McGough who recently graduated from Willapa Valley High School (WVHS) in Raymond, Washington in 2023. WVHS is a 1B high school meaning that there were only around 205 total students in attendance.

Lauryn McGough

“I came from a really small school, and there was not really a lot of competition,” McGough said. “I was the only vaulter at my high school. I never had anyone to push myself against, and now at CWU I get to go against some incredible athletes, and it helps me push myself further and further.”

McGough set a new CWU and GNAC women’s pole vault record of 4.05 meters during her second ever collegiate track meet. After receiving her athlete of the week honors, McGough expressed both excitement and gratitude about the achievement.

“As a freshman it was a big honor, and I thought it was super cool to be recognized by the GNAC,” McGough said. “I also did not even know I broke the pole vault record until one of my teammates came and told me after the meet. It just made me a little bit proud of myself.”

McGough shared how her pole-vaulting journey started because of her dad. She said that ever since seventh grade when she began the sport, she was determined to beat her dads record of 13 feet; a goal she ended up attaining. Assistant track and field/pole vault coach JT Statler mentioned that McGough already has aspirations to beat her new record.

“I’ve had some good kids, but never this young,” assistant track and field/pole vault coach JT Statler said about McGough. “She is the highest [jumping] high school kid I have ever coached … this kid is going to do awesome.”

Junior multi-event athlete Drew Klein was awarded with athlete of the week honors both weeks, first for his pole vault of 4.75 meters and for then putting up a personal record (PR) of 5,198 in the heptathlon. Not only was this the seventh highest score in GNAC history for this event but also the third highest in CWU history.

Drew Klein

“It felt rewarding and reassuring that I’m making steps in the right direction,” Klein said. “It’s a product of my hard work and I feel I’m exactly where I need to be at this part of the season. Running NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association] Division ll track is an opportunity that not a lot of people get, so I never take it for granted when I step on the track.”

Klein commenced his track and field journey in kindergarten when he first ran the 400-meter dash. Once at the high school level, he transitioned into pole vaulting and hurdles which eventually led into events such as the heptathlon and decathlon.

“Drew came in super hungry, having little vaulting experience it was like taking an active lump of clay and going okay, we are going to do this and after two years we are seeing these kinds of results that are truly so awesome,” Statler said.

Freshman sprinter Emy Ntekpere won the high jump event during her first collegiate meet with a leap of 5 feet and 8.5 inches; which ranked second best in the nation and tied her for fourth place on the GNAC Indoor Top-10 lists. By her third meet, Ntekpere recorded 38 feet and 8.25 inches in her first career triple jump which was named an NCAA provisional qualifier, currently leads the GNAC, and put her at third place on the school’s indoor Top-5 list.

Emy Ntekpere

“I have never done [a] triple jump in my track and field career,” Ntekpere said. “I practiced once, 3 days before the meet and I wasn’t expecting anything huge from myself, as it was my first time. It felt unreal. Coming from high school with a finishing season jump of 5 feet and 6 inches and then coming to CWU and practicing high jump maybe four, five or so times before our first meet and PRing was something I never expected. I just cried and cried tears of joy and shock.” 

Ntekpere graduated from Skyview High School located in Vancouver, Washington in 2023. Ntekpere started running track when she was just eight years old. She continued to run through middle and high school but almost quit when COVID-19 hit.

“That would have been the worst idea of my life,” Ntekpere said about giving up the sport. “The CWU track environment is like home, my second family. They support me always and scream my name to anyone who’s listening. My coach, coach Hill, is genuinely one of the best coaches I’ve ever had.”

Head track and field coach Jonathan Hill recently came to CWU as this is both his and track and field coach Matt Layten’s first seasons with the Wildcats. Coach Hill mentioned how he had an “affinity” for the types of programs in the northwest that are all-around good athletic schools that compete for championships.

“It’s been an absolute joy to work with her [Ntekpere], her talent is undeniable and watching her I knew she had jumping ability,” Hill said. “She is a ball of sunshine, she is energetic and she has an emotional attachment to performing well and jumping high.”

Senior mid-distance runner Johan Correa has added many records to his resume by this point in his career. He started off this season breaking CWU’s 3000-meter school record with a time of eight minutes and 23.22 seconds followed up by breaking his own one-mile record with a time of four minutes and nine seconds. Correa credited both new coaches on the staff for his recent successes. “We’ve got new coaches,” Correa said. “And coach Matt, he has new things that I’ve needed to do for me to get better.” 

Senior sprinter E’lexis Hollis, with the help of others on the team, led the women’s team to be ranked 15 in the nation as well as third in the west region. She has also already been named GNAC track athlete of the week twice this season.

Hollis won her first athlete of the week in December and followed that up with another one last week. She was awarded her second one for winning the 60 meter event as well as setting a new conference-leading time in the 200 meter event.

“The 200 [meter event] is a mental challenge… Honestly, me and the 200 have a love-hate relationship because my endurance isn’t the greatest,” Hollis said. “So it shows off a lot of my training from the past preseason,” Hollis said. 

Coach Hill talked about the impact that not only Correa and Hollis have had on him as a first-year head coach, but also on the program altogether. “Everything I’ve learned about head coaching; I’ve learned from Central Washington,” Coach Hill said. “I’m growing in this role, just like our athletes are growing in the sport. I feel like a freshman.” 

According to Hollis, Coach Hill has implemented many different exercises compared to what they had in the past. He has included more power and speed techniques compared to past years’ more endurance-based training. 

“All the work he has put in is definitely showing through all of us and I am grateful to have him as a coach,” Hollis said. “I think everyone loves him.” 

Correa also praised Coach Hill’s training regimen and said he had learned from Coach Hill to trust the process, not rush anything and just believe in himself.

The success that both Correa and Hollis have achieved so far this season has been historical for the school, but Coach Hill expressed that success is the standard for his athletes.

“We teach our athletes to not be surprised when good things happen because that is what we work for,” Coach Hill said. “But we do not expect success either. We work at a level that is consistent with the results we want. We can’t guarantee success, we can only guarantee our efforts and attitudes which over time produces good results.”

The season is not over for the Wildcats as there are still plenty of awards that can be earned and records that could be broken.

“We are not satisfied in the slightest, today is another day to get better,” Coach Hill said. “The NCAA tells us to take one day off, but we still even get better on those days.”

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