Westerns track and field team stars in new podcast

Written by: Liberty Miller | Lifestyle Editor

The Howl had the opportunity to interview seven athletes from the men’s and women’s cross-country and track and field teams. An impressive lineup of athletes from both sports were chosen to speak to the Howl about their respective programs, coaching staff, hobbies and experience at Western. The interviewees for the podcast show were Elwood Hosking, Rami Dear, Bryce Mefford, Isaiah Rodriguez, Wyatt Smith, Lindie Larson, Riley Smith and Olivia Flack. 

Topics ranged from the individual successes of the athletes to a collective admiration of coach Zach Holloway, personal interests, events and entertaining stories from their time in the program. The athletes ran a variety of events, including the 800 meter, steeplechase, the distance medley relay and the mile. They each bring a wealth of knowledge on their event, how to prepare mentally and nutritionally and a few embarrassing yet entertaining storytimes on failed barrier jumps. 

All of the athletes have made their mark on the program, but Rodriguez and Larson have made big waves in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 2 competitive environments. Rodriguez took an impressive second-place finish as a true freshman in the 800-meter competition during the 2024 GNAC track and field championships. Larson has quite an impressive resume with two-time appearances in three different sectors — the GNAC Indoor Track and Field Championships, GNAC cross-country Championships and the NCAA Division Two cross-country West Region Championships, as well as an appearance in the NCAA Division Two pre-nationals competition. Additionally, Smith also placed first in the Linfield Erik Anderson Icebreaker Memorial Invitational for the 800-meter race. The vast majority of athletes interviewed have attended the GNAC Championships in some form, which speaks volumes about the quality and performance of Western’s program as a whole. 

What stood out in particular were the stories of Zach Holloway, the head cross-country coach and assistant track and field coach. He previously worked for the highly successful Adams State University cross-country and track and field programs as he completed his education. Before his time at Adams State, he was a former distance runner at Western. He returned to Western in 2018 and has been coaching here since. Many players referred to Holloway as someone they could reach out to for anything, a great resource for support and a listening voice. Dear and Hosking elaborated on Holloway’s demeanor, “Zach’s really humble, most recently he ran a race that he didn’t want to tell us where it was, or when it was, but he tells me what time, and like dude, that’s faster than my like cross country season best! — He’s too humble, but Zach’s still got it.” Dear stated. Holloway seems to have been a powerful force in recruiting, with Hosking and Dear both stating that he was a large part of their decision to come to Western.

Western’s track and field team, similar to other programs, brings in a fair amount of transfer athletes from other two-year and four-year universities. Hosking transferred in from Division 1 school Portland State University, while Dear transferred in from Clackamas Community College. Flack spoke about her experience transferring from Lane Community College, a Northwest Athletic Conference two-year school. “I really like the atmosphere here on the team and I knew a lot of people who transferred from Lane to Western, and they always had good things to say about it — it was a smooth transfer.” Transfer athletes from junior colleges — JUCO — typically make the move after two years, which grants the athlete two more years to compete at the university level. In some cases, similar to Hosking, athletes will choose to redshirt, since the NCAA grants an athlete a total of five calendar years to compete. 

Aside from programs and coaching staff, each interviewee had a unique perspective with vastly different interests from each other. Despite interests from coffee shop dreams to mob bosses, the athletes shared that for the most part, they were all a tight-knit community. Throughout all three episodes, athletes spoke highly of each other, constantly referring to members outside of the podcast space and sharing memories. Many athletes like Flack choose to room with their teammates, something that is typically encouraged by programs to promote camaraderie. Mefford told the Howl that his friendships from the cross-country and track and field teams were something he is “going to value for the rest of his life.” 

Mefford chose to abstain from competing this season but still sacrifices his time practicing and attending meets so he is able to stay close to his teammates and support them. Smith attributed part of her decision to attend Western to her brother also participating in the program here. Bailey Smith is a senior on the track and field team, and Smith elaborated on how close they were by stating that Oregon still “felt like home,” despite both siblings originating from Cody, Wyoming. 

Ranging from a team bonding hide-and-seek gone wrong to entrepreneurship, chemistry and high-level athletic competition, these cross-country and track and field athletes covered it all. Podcast show episodes will be available on YouTube.

Contact the author at Howllifestyle@wou.edu