By Lindi Congour

Western’s track and field team recently sent 50 athletes to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Indoor Track and Field Championships in Spearfish, South Dakota. Every qualifying team was required to test their athletes for COVID-19 prior to departing for the meet.

Despite having limited entries due to the pandemic protocols, the team was able to send individuals in every event category to their conference meet: distance, sprints, throws, and jumps.

While the impact of COVID-19 has heavily influenced the direction a lot of athletic programs have taken, Western’s track and field team pushed on with training and competitions. Normally, the championship would involve teams being situated around the track, watching their teammates compete. However, this year, athletes were stuck watching the competition on a screen.

It was a new experience for many to have to compete in a quieter setting, with only the shouts of coaches and the occasional teammate waiting for their next event.

Though the numbers of cheers were limited, it did not prevent Western’s athletes from some stellar athletic performances.

Junior Katie Doucette, who was a conference champion in the women’s 3000-meter race, noted that “Being an RMAC champion makes me feel really proud to represent Western and I am so grateful for this team and coaching staff! RMACs are always so special because of the support and spirit everyone brings.”

Doucette also happened to run a provisional qualifying time in the race, which helped to rank her 19th in the nation for Division II athletics.

In terms of the field events, there were many young athletes that qualified for the RMAC championships that had never been to a conference meet before. True freshman and high jumper Rhyan Moore said, “I was really excited to be here [at conference] and to make it as a true freshman. It was a really exciting experience!”

Being a true freshman in athletics means that the athlete competes for the team in uniform their first year and can often be a rare occurrence. Moore is one of several Western athletes to achieve that honor.

For other Western athletes, this championship was just one of several they had been to. Senior Evan Sutherland competes on Western’s cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field teams, and has been to his own fair share of national championships.

When asked about how it felt to compete during the pandemic, he stated that “With all the things that have happened in the last year, I’m just glad to have the opportunity to compete and get in some good races.” Sutherland helped to lead the men’s distance medley relay to a second-place finish and also to qualify for the national indoor track and field championships.

Though the entire team was not present to cheer on their teammates, Western was able to walk away with several top-three performances and national qualifying marks over the three-day competition.