Western Washington University’s Bethany Drake and Katie Reichert finished one-two in the women’s javelin by the thinnest of margins in final-day action Saturday at the NCAA Division II National Outdoor Track and Field Championships being held at Grand Valley State University Stadium.
That highlighted an outstanding three-day performance at nationals by the Vikings.
“This has been amazing,” said WWU head coach Pee Wee Halsell. “Nothing went wrong. All of our athletes competed and all of them were victorious in their different ways.”
Drake, who entered the meet as the national leader with a school-record throw of 169-6, was in second place behind Mary Riley of Central Missouri (161-10 on first attempt) after her three preliminary throws, but then uncorked an effort of 165-3 on the first of her three attempts in the finals.
As it turned out, Drake needed every inch as Reichert had a career-best by well over two feet of 165-2 on her final attempt, moving from ninth place all the way to second. “I came into this meet just trying to stay relaxed,” said Drake. “I couldn’t imagine having anyone better beside me (Reichert) and we stayed right there with each other. It was exciting.”
Drake becomes WWU’s 15th individual national champion in track and field and the fourth in the women’s javelin. The Vikings’ Monika Gruszecki was the NCAA II champion in 2007 and 2011, and Joan Williamson took the NAIA title in 1984.
The one-two national finish was a school first.
“It was a joke (between us). We wanted to tie,” said Reichert. “I think that was about as close as we could get,” added Drake.
Drake entered the competition ranked No.1 nationally at 169-6 and Reichert was No.3 at 162-8.
The national competition was the second for both Drake and Reichert. Drake placed 13th last year, and Reichert was seventh in 2012.
Frank Catelli placed third for the Vikings in the men’s shot put, breaking the 60-foot barrier for the first time with a school-record mark of 60-10 1/2 on his third attempt. He led the competition at that point.
“It’s hard to explain because the best throw always feels like you could throw a lot harder and that’s what it felt like,” Catelli said. “I got my legs into it which I don’t normally do.”
Minnesota State’s Christopher Reed won the event on his last throw, which went 65-4 3/4. Wesley Lavong of Adams State was second at 62-7 3/4 on his fourth attempt.
“I thank the competition,” said Catelli. “If it was not there, I don’t think that I could have pushed myself to get that pr.”
The Vikings’ Alex Donigian, who narrowly made it into the finals, placed fifth in the men’s 100 meters with a time of 10.61. He is the first athlete in the 14-year history of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference to receive national points in that event.
WWU’s Slater Hirst placed fourth in the men’s javelin and teammate John Haskin was eighth.
On his third attempt, Hirst unleashed a throw of 216-7, breaking his own school record set two weeks ago by nearly two feet. Haskin had a throw of 204-11 on his fifth attempt. That was just three inches short of his season and personal best. On Friday, the Vikings’ Katelyn Steen placed fourth in the women’s 3,000 steeplechase final. She was clocked in 10:20.66, bettering her own school record by nearly 14 seconds. Catelli finished 13th in the men’s discus on Friday with a mark of 168-3, and Lindsay Wells was 12th in the women’s hammer on Thursday at 169-5.