Sactown showdown: Eags prep for NCAA West Prelims


Senior Erin Clark prepares to pole vault at a recent practice. Clark will compete in the event at the NCAA West Preliminary Championship in Sacramento this weekend | Bailey Monteith for The Easterner

By Taylor Newquist, Reporter

Seven Eagles have qualified for the NCAA West Preliminary Championship this weekend in Sacramento after final rankings were posted on May 17.

Three athletes from the men’s team and four from the women’s team will represent EWU across eight events, with top 12 finishers securing a place in the NCAA National Championships.

Sophomore Keshun McGee goes in as the highest ranked Eagle, and the only one qualified in multiple events. He is ranked No. 19 in the triple jump, and based on competitor’s seed marks would need to increase his distance by 5 1/2 inches to crack the top 12. McGee is also ranked No. 36 in the long jump, roughly 10 inches from the 12th-place competitors best mark.

“It feels really good,” McGee said about qualifying for two events. “I hope to do really good actually, so I’m hoping a lot from myself.”

Sophomore Keshun McGee stretches during a recent practice. McGee qualified for both the long jump and triple jump in this weekend’s NCAA West Preliminaries | Bailey Monteith for The Easterner

Joining McGee from the men’s team are two sprinters: senior Jeremy VanAssche, ranked No. 29 in the 100-meter dash and junior Parker Bowden, ranked No. 44 in the 110-meter hurdles.

“We’re all ready,” said Bowden. “I know Jeremy is chomping at the bit, we’re all excited to go down there and see what happens.”

Bowden said that he wasn’t happy with his performance in the Big Sky Championships where he finished in fifth place with a time of 14.25 seconds. He hopes the Sacramento weather will help his time.

“I still ran a decent time,” said Bowden. “But I’m excited to be in some warm weather and hopefully shave off a couple hundredths of a second off my time.”

VanAssche last competed in the West Preliminary round in 2016 when he placed No. 27 in the 100-meter dash at 10.53 seconds.

“If I can PR down there that would be cool,” VanAssche said. “But [I’ll] hopefully just focus on my race Thursday. Pretty much as long as I can make it until Friday, then try and PR both races and I’d be happy with that.”

VanAssche’s seed mark of 10.39 seconds was notched at the OSU High Performance on April 27. He set the school record in the Big Sky Championships with a time of 10.29 seconds, but was aided by a wind of 4.5 meters per seconds. Championship qualifying criteria requires any wind reading exceeding 4.0 meters per second to be recorded along with the time.

“It’s the best I’ve felt in quite a long time,” said VanAssche. “My body is feeling good which it hasn’t been in quite a while, so I think I’ll be able to do pretty well this weekend.”

Junior Parker Bowden (left) and senior Jeremy VanAssche run warmup maps at Roos Field. At the upcoming NCAA West Preliminaries, Bowden qualified in the 110-meter hurdles, while VanAssche will compete in the 100-meter dash | Bailey Monteith for The Easterner

The women’s team will have four athletes compete after junior Madison Doepker was added as the No. 48 ranked competitor in the javelin throw after an injury-related late scratch. Joining her are seniors Kari Hamilton, Paula Gil-Echevarria and Erin Clark.

“I have never got a call for a late add to the West Regional meet before but we did this year,” women’s head coach Marcia Mecklenburg said about Doepker. “It was a breakthrough year for her in the javelin and now she gets to try and throw it farther in at least one more meet.”

Gil-Echevarria enters the meet ranked No. 37 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, with Clark No. 34 in the pole vault, and Hamilton No. 27 in the 10,000-meters.

“I’m pretty excited,” Clark said. “It’s the first time I’ve qualified. I’m hoping to PR and at least personally do well.”

Clark failed to clear a vault at the Big Sky Championships, and hopes to finish on a high note in what might be her last meet as an Eagle.

“It doesn’t quite feel real yet that it’s over,” said Clark. “It’s been a good experience, so no matter what it’s a good ending.”

Gil-Echevarria, Hamilton and Clark all set their season bests while competing in California, and will need to improve on those performances this weekend to progress to the NCAA Championships.  

“Both Kari and Erin walked on to our program as freshmen,” said Mecklenburg. “So, it is even more gratifying to see what they have achieved. I believe they have the ability to qualify out of regionals for the NCAA National Championships.”

The NCAA West Preliminary Championships are held from May 24-26. Events will be live-streamed by FloTrack, and the full event schedule is posted on the NCAA website.