WSU’s track team is a hidden gem

After the Wichita State men’s basketball team fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, WSU fans quickly shifted focus to next season. This is a reoccurring theme—only showing love for the men’s basketball team, purchasing season tickets the second they become available, and packing up WSU T-shirts until next November.

But believe it or not, WSU is not a one-team show; it also has a good track and field team. And pretty good is an understatement.

For starters, coach Steve Rainbolt is arguably one of the most passionate coaches in this city. During our first meeting, Rainbolt gave me a 20-minute breakdown of the sport and how it works.

Rainbolt was named the 2012 Midwest Coach of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. To put it into perspective, Rainbolt was only one of nine men’s coaches in the nation awarded.

But would any WSU fans even recognize Rainbolt? If he was walking alongside Gregg Marshall or Gene Stephenson he might be overlooked. The same can be said about much of the WSU track and field team. Proof lies in the lack of compliments Aliphine Tuliamuk received after she returned from the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships with All-American status.

Tuliamuk was one of eight athletes from the track and field team who made an appearance. But no special selection show was held for the team. As a matter of fact, at the time of the press conference in Koch Arena there were more basketball personnel than track supporters.

If WSU’s involvement at the NCAA Championships is not impressive though, how about the highest possible level of athletic achievement? WSU graduates Chandra Andrews, Kellyn Johnson and Trent Mazanec competed at the U.S. Olympic trials. Andrews placed 15th in the women’s hammer throw, Johnson placed 10th in the women’s 10,000 meters and Mazanec placed 13th in the men’s javelin.

Even more impressive is the involvement of current Shockers in the trials. Senior Todd McKown placed 27th in the 110-meter hurdles, followed by teammate Lawson Montgomery who placed 29th. Sophomore Natalie Morerod finished 23rd in the 400-meter hurdles. 

For the entire month of June, top news stories were heavily laced with the track and field team. A total of 13 track and field stories were on the website throughout the month, including a personal favorite of Audacia Moore, the three-year captain posting top marks for the MVC while maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.94 in nursing.

There is no doubt that next spring many of us will be depressed that basketball is over, complaining that there are no sports to cover or watch anymore. But I beg to differ. There is a gem here at WSU and maybe it’s time we sports enthusiasts recognize it.