May 20, 2014
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
By Racquel Arceo, The Western Front
For more Western Front stories visit westernfrontonline.net - Twice-weekly student newspaper of Western Washington University
Two of the top three javelin throwers in the nation hope to storm their way to victory as the Western Washington University track team heads to the NCAA II National Championships in Allendale, Michigan, May 22-24.
Sophomore Bethany Drake and junior Katie Reichert -- jokingly given the combined nicknamed "Bettie" by their teammates -- have both qualified and will represent Western at the meet along with six other additional athletes from the track team.
With a chance for the women's team to place, Drake said this year the "Bettie Storm" is coming.
After a record-shattering throw of 169 feet 6 inches earlier this year, Drake has been a national leader in woman's javelin for the majority of the season.
For her play Drake was named the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association West Region Women's Field Athlete of the Year.
Currently ranked third in the nation, Reichert hopes she is able to set a personal record at nationals and come in at least third.
The top ranked duo will compete side by side for the first time at a national level.
Training together for two years at Western, both said they are excited to get the opportunity to experience nationals with each other.
Both being top competitors, Reichert said she is similar to Drake in the sense that they are both innately driven to push themselves.
"I feel like we really help each other to be the best we can be," Reichert said.
Drake said it's a great experience getting to train next to, and feed off, one of her best friends everyday,
"I don't think either of us would be as successful as we are without getting to train beside one another," she said.
Having a good friendship with teammates is an asset, Reichert said.
"We're really close friends outside of track as well," Reichert said. "To be able to know each other personally and in an athletic sense, it's really helpful for both of us."
After both Reichert and Drake went to nationals alone two separate years, Reichert said it will be nice getting to experience the event together this time.
After competing alone in 2012, Reichert decided to redshirt last year, opting not to compete.
Last year Drake was the only Western student to attend nationals and said she is excited to be going with a team of seven others this year.
Going with a team will help her feel more comfortable and confident going in after attending last year's national championships, Drake said.
Drake played for her high school softball team before deciding to leave to join the schools track team five years ago.
Tired of all the team politics, and with persuasion from both her older sister and her best friend, Drake made the switch.
Knowing that she didn't want to run, Drake chose to try her hand at javelin.
Seeing her old softball team practice, Drake said she had second thoughts about her choice at first.
"Looking back now I feel like it was such a blessing," Drake said. "God closed one door for me and opened up another one that was so much bigger than I ever imagined. It's been a cool journey."
Continuing track from high school to college wasn't always part of Drake's plan. She did not decide to continue the sport until halfway through her senior year of high school.
Making the switch was a big adjustment. Going from three-month seasons to intense training year round was something Drake had to get used to.
Drake was not sure what college track would be like or where it would take her at first but she said she really enjoyed the step up in dedication and competition.
"It was a lot more time and a lot more effort but it was so rewarding," Drake said.
Team members get excited for their own victories but also for each other's, sometimes even more excited than for their own, Drake said.
"Even though it's a very individual sport it's also the most team oriented sport I've ever been a part of," Drake said.
Sometimes there are down times where nothing is making sense or coming together properly, Drake said.
"I'm a very analytical person and javelin is very technical," she said. "So I've really enjoyed mastering the little parts of it and seeing things come together and click."
A studio art major and avid painter, Drake said she spends a lot of long nights in the art studio outside of track.
Drake is involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a group she has been a part of since high school.
"I definitely view track as God giving me this opportunity and this talent," Drake said. "I can't imagine doing anything less than my best."
Between breaking records and getting the opportunity to go to nationals at the position she is in is exciting, overwhelming and surreal, Drake said.
This year opened many doors for Drake, she said.
"I'll just keep training as hard as I can and enjoying every moment along the way and see where it takes me," Drake said.
Drake said she hopes keep her nerves in check at nationals.
Staying in the moment and focusing on what can be done in the now will hopefully keep the nerves at bay, she said.
Reichert said Drake is her biggest competition but getting the opportunity to compete alongside her makes the whole college athletics experience more exciting.
"She's right there next to you everyday. I see what she's doing, she sees what I'm doing," Reichert said. "Instead of having that competition at some other school, way far off, you know. It keeps you more accountable."
Reichert said she really got serious about track in high school but did not start throwing until her senior year.
Besides track, Reichert played basketball, volleyball and softball in high school.
"I like the fact that [track] is an individual sport and a team sport in the sense that you're successes aren't reliant on your team completely,"
Reichert said. "It all comes down to how much work you put in."
Success in track comes down to how hard you want to train and how focused you are, Reichert said.
Going from high school track to college track was a change seeing improve is rewarding, Reichert said.
"Instead of just training for a couple months in high school you actually get to really improve upon your technique," Reichert said. "Your skills and your weightlifting [in college]. It's more specialized."
As a communications studies major and potential event planning minor, Reichert said that she doesn't have a lot of free time outside of track.
"Track takes up a lot of time because I let it," Reichert said. "I enjoy it."
Having teammates around to push you and being able to push them all contributes to personal improvement and focus, Reichert said.
A positive aspect of Division II is that the intensity level is a little lower than Division I, giving teammates a chance to connect with each other in a supportive atmosphere, Reichert said.
"We get to share all these experiences together, all these adventures and we really enjoy spending the time together," Reichert said.
Q&A with Monika Gruszecki
Former WWU javelin thrower Monika Gruszecki now works an an intern with the NCAA
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Bethany Drake (Javelin), Brittany Grant (Steeplechase) and Anna Paradee (Pole Vault) travel to Florida
Track & Field Places 29 on GNAC All-Academic Teams
16 WWU women, 13 WWU men earn GNAC All-Academic honors