As the spring sports season comes to a close, the Whitworth track and field team has 10 male athletes and eight female athletes graduating this spring. The men have been an important and integral part of a track and field squad that has won three of the last four conference championships. The group has continued to build and improve on a turnaround that began at the start of the new millennium. The last time the Whitworth men won the conference meet prior to 2001 was 1971.
“This group has set up and left a team that will dominate the next few years,” head coach Toby Schwarz said.
Senior Cody Allen graduates after migrating from a sprinter to pole vaulter his junior year. Allen helped the team by taking up pole vaulting, an event that the Bucs did not have a participant for until he began vaulting.
Senior Elorm Atisu has competed in the 400m, 200m, 100m and was also a 4x1 and 4x4 relay runner, making multiple sacrifices to be a member of the team.
Senior Alex Couette graduates as a captain of the track and field team. He is ranked second all-time in the hammer throw at Whitworth, and will be competing nationally in the event.
Senior Kristoff Decker leaves the track team after beginning his Whitworth track career as a junior. A former gymnast with no prior track experience, Decker competed at the NWC meet in the pole vault in each of his two years.
Senior Colin Foshay competed in the 100m, 200m and 4x1 relay before encountering a series of injuries. Coach Schwarz said Foshay has helped establish a strong sprints group that the Bucs will have for years to come.
Senior Nicholas Gallagher, like Foshay, was unable to compete fully his senior year. Still, Gallagher leaves as a NWC champion in both the 10k and 5k.
Senior Alex Hymel, another captain, will be a name to remember in Whitworth athletics. He is a three-time All-American, two-time NWC Javelin champion and the school record holder for the javelin throw.
Senior Evan Staley transitioned from a 400m runner to a decathlete as a senior. Staley was also a team captain, placing in three events at the NWC Championships this year.
Senior Jeff Wheeler, who Coach Schwarz calls the team’s very own “Rudy,” graduates after four years of hard work in the weight room and hammer ring. Coach Schwarz said Wheeler dramatically improved to become a conference qualifier in the hammer.
The women’s track and field team graduates as one of the most talented classes in over a decade.
“Definitely one of the most talented groups of seniors we’ve had,” Schwarz said.
At the conference meet this year, the seniors on the women’s team accounted for roughly two-thirds of the points that the team scored as a whole. Six female athletes from the Bucs squad are going to nationals, four of which are All-American athletes.
Senior Erica Cox leaves the track and field program as an All-American in the hammer and discus. She is the record holder in both events, an NWC champ in the hammer and two-time NWC discus champion.
Senior Kayla Hughes competed in the high jump, which Schwarz calls one of the most mentally challenging and exhausting events. Hughes finished second at the NWC championships as a sophomore and has built a valuable foundation to be followed by underclassmen that come in the future.
Senior Elizabeth Mattila leaves Whitworth as a track and soccer star. Although studying abroad and playing soccer caused Mattila to miss her junior year of track competition, she still graduates as a three-time national competitor, All-American and two-time NWC champion in the 400H. In addition, she holds the school record in the Open 400m and NWC scorer in the 100H, 4x1 and 4x4 relays.
Senior Dana Misterek graduates after breaking the school record in the 1500m as a sophomore and winning the NWC 800m championship and also qualifying for nationals in the 800m.
“Dana [Misterek] has established herself as one of the fastest distance runners in Whitworth and NWC history,” Schwarz said.
Senior Adrienne Ritchie, another Whitworth senior runner, improved drastically in the 10k due to hard work and dedication during her time in the program.
Senior Kacie Thrift leaves the program as discus thrower, who Schwarz said has a smile and encouraging personality that has made an everlasting impact on the team in addition to being an accomplished discus thrower.
Whitworth also graduates yet another All-American in senior Tonya Turner. Turner holds the school record in 1500m and 3000 steeple chase, both events she will be competing in nationally this year.
“One of the fastest and most decorated distance runners in Whitworth history,” Schwarz said.
Last but not least is senior Katie Williams, who Schwarz describes as a captain, competitor and teammate. Williams capped off her collegiate running career by finishing third in both the 5K and 3000 steeple chase at the NWC Championships.
The Bucs will be sending multiple men and women athletes to the Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Delaware, Ohio, at the end of May.
Story by Andrew Forhan
Photo by Angeles Solis