As Clark’s track season nears its end, the women are pulling ahead of the men.
While injuries have plagued the men’s team, second-year head coach Bob Williams said the women dominate because of their determination.
“Their motto is ‘commitment and consistency creates champions,” Williams said.
Fifteen of 17 women this year have qualified to compete in the NWAC championship meet at Mount Hood Community College from May 23-24, while just nine of 15 male athletes have qualified.
The men’s team is no stranger to success, with seven NWAC championship wins, but it is the women taking the limelight this year.
Thirteen years after former head coach Eric Anderson brought home Clark’s first NWAC women’s track and field championship in 2003, Williams is working to shape this year’s women’s team into a contender.
“Clark has potential to be a championship team,” Williams said. “They have been before. It just takes a lot of hard work.”
Williams began his hard work in the offseason, recruiting 24 freshmen to his teams, 15 of whom hail from Clark County.
“We are very interested in building the program to have 90 percent of the athletes to be from the Clark County area,” Williams said.
Once signed, athletes are vetted by the learning curve of collegiate competition and training, according to freshman athlete Tayler Troupe.
“I feel stronger and more prepared for the meets, and I never worked this hard,” Troupe said.
Troupe, along with 14 other qualifying Penguins, have found themselves in the NWAC top 10 for their events, and six of them in two or more events. Troupe, who hails from Union High School, is ranked No. 8 in the league for the 100 meter, No. 10 in the 200 meter and No. 3 in the long jump, placing fourth in the WAR 9 meet in Spokane with a distance of 5.24 meters.
Another female standout includes sophomore Alanni Wingert, who is No. 4 in the 1,500 meter and No. 3 in the league for the 800 meter after finishing first at the Cougar Open with a time of 2:22.5.
“To run the 800, you have to be tough as hell,” Wingert said. “Coach pushes me to do my best, but I put more pressure on myself than anyone.”
While the women’s team is firing on all cylinders, the men’s team can’t get their feet under themselves as injuries seem to have tripped up their season from the start.
Heritage High School graduate and sophomore long distance runner James Breen was set to be a key component to Williams’ men’s track team, much like he was for the men’s cross-country team this Fall. Breen finished his sophomore season as the overall NWAC Individual Champion this fall during the cross-country championships held in Lewisville Park on Nov. 14.
Breen, who was named both NWAC All-American as well as an NWAC Athlete of the Year in cross-county, came across the line first in Lewisville during the championship, averaging a 5:02 mile pace as he finished the eight kilometer run in 25:12. This contributed to Clark’s overall fifth place in the championship.
Leading into his track season, Breen injured his knee on New Year’s while ice skating, and attempted to ignore this injury and practice, only to further injure himself with a minor tear in his patellar tendon.
Breen was set to compete in the 10,000 meter and 5,000 meter races, but due to his injuries he cannot race in these categories. According to Breen, there is no one to fill the position in the long distance categories for Clark.
“That’s quite a bit of points lost in just those categories,” Breen said.
In response to Breen’s unfortunate series of luck, freshman Sam Garvin, of Mountain View High School, looks to be the silver lining to the men’s track team. Garvin placed second in the cross-country championship behind Breen, who was the first male athlete at Clark College to win the cross-country championship.
Williams called Sam Garvin the men’s “best all-around runner,” and said the freshman ranks third in the 1,500 meter, at 4:02.30 and fourth in the 5,000 meter at 15:33.25 since March.
Although Breen outran Garvin by 16 seconds, Garvin captured the Athlete of the Week Award for his performance at the Hodges Invitational at Clackamas.
Garvin will have a chance to prove that he was deserving of the award while competing in the 1,500 meter and 5,000 meter in the NWAC championship.
First the team must get past the final meet of the regular season in Eugene on April 28.