CWU News

CWU Athletic Accomplishment Goes Hand-in-Hand with Academic Achievement

Wildcat Sports logoCentral is spelled SUCCESS when it pertains to excellence in athletics. As the spring sports seasons get into high gear, the current academic year is demonstrating that fact as CWU Wildcat athletes continue to excel in their sports and in the classroom.

“First and foremost, the success of our student-athletes in competition and in the classroom are a testament to the dedication and hard work of our student-athletes and the quality of our faculty and coaches at CWU,” said Dennis Francois, CWU director of athletics.

This year, 51 CWU athletes have received conference, regional, and national performance recognition, after excelling in competition on some new and significantly improved facilities—including the installation of artificial turf and light-emitting diode (LED) lighting allowing for night contests—at Tomlinson Stadium, and the new student Recreation Sports Complex, home to the CWU track and field facility, which includes the Dick and Marlys Bedlington Throws Venue.

Some of the most highly decorated Cats this year include football’s James Moore, from Tacoma (Bethel High School), who was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) Offensive Lineman of the Year, an American Football Coaches Association’s (AFCA) Division II Coaches’ All-American, and he was named to Division II Conference Commissioners Association’s (D2CCA) All-Super Region 4 Football 1st team. 

In volleyball, Kyla Morgan, Graham (Bethel H.S.), was honored as the GNAC Defensive Player of the Year, and named American Volleyball Coaches Association’s (AVCA) Division II All-West Region Team 1st team, and D2CCA All-West Region Volleyball 2nd team. Her teammates Makala Swart, Naches Valley (Naches H.S.), made the AVCA Division II All-West Region 1st team and Shelby Mauritson, Madras, Oregon (Madras H.S.), the D2CCA All-West Region Volleyball 1st team, while Gabrielle Aihara, Newberg, Oregon (Newberg H.S.), was selected for the AVCA Division II All-West Region 2nd team.

Six Wildcats— Kodiak Landis, Snohomish (Snohomish H.S./Everett C.C.), and Braydon Maier, Selah (Selah H.S.), in the heptathlon; Zach Whittaker, Poulsbo (North Kitsap H.S.), in triple jump; HarLee Ortega, Payette, Idaho (Payette H.S.), in the high jump; Halle Irvine, Yakima (West Valley H.S.), in the pole vault; and Alexa Shindruk, Bellingham (Lynden H.S.), in both the 3,000- and 5,000-meter races—earned All-American honors at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II Indoor Championships.

In addition, Landis was named the U.S. Track and Field & Cross Country Coaches Association Division II Indoor Track and Field West Region Male Field Athlete of the Year.
In cross country, Shindruk also received NCAA All-American honors, while also being named an NCAA Elite 90 award recipient. The award recognizes student-athletes who have reached the pinnacle of competition at the national championship level, while also achieving the highest academic standard among their peers. Shindruk led all women in the GNAC with a 4.0 cumulative grade point average (GPA). She made the GNAC All-Academic team for three straight years.

In the classroom, Shindruk and 37 other Wildcats have already earned academic recognition this year. Their studies have been aided by the opening of the Freedman-Remak Student-Athlete Academic Success Center, in the university’s Brooks Library, last November.

“The ability to provide our student athletes with a dedicated space to study and receive tutoring has really helped cement our culture of academic success,” said Mal Stewman, who oversees the academic support services for the Department of Athletics.

Stewman, who works alongside coaches, faculty and staff with the goal of creating the best possible academic experience for our student athletes at CWU, adds, “We are definitely seeing continuing improvement in the overall grade point averages of our students athletes who get the connection between the hard work the put in on the field play and their school work. They realize the mental toughness they need to be a good student translates to their sport too.”

The CWU volleyball actually led all GNAC teams with eight Wildcats being All-Academic selections. Shindruk was joined by women’s soccer’s Emily Thomson, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (Austin O’Brien Catholic H.S.) who also recorded a perfect 4.0 GPA. 

This year, CWU also continued to record among the best home crowd attendance and support in the conference. It’s another acknowledged factor in the continuing culture of success that is a hallmark of Wildcat athletics. 

“We take great pride in providing the best game day experience in the GNAC,” Francois added. “Leading the conference in attendance in football the past two years, the past three years in men’s basketball, as well as women’s soccer this past year, cannot happen without our fans, but it also is a tribute to our marketing efforts led by Associate Athletic Director Tyler Unsicker, our marching and pep bands, the Wildcat cheer team, and our corporate partners.”

The success of student athletes in the classroom and in their sports is also the product of support and financial investment of university alumni and donors. 

“CWU athletics is a program that people are proud of and want to be associated with,” noted Scott Wade, vice president for University Advancement. “The vision and leadership that has been established by Dennis, his coaches, and student-athletes has directly led to unprecedented levels of financial support for scholarships, facilities, and other program enhancements, like lights to allow for night games and artificial turf, along with new alumni recognition and meeting areas.”

The overall goal is to ensure that CWU coaches and student-athletes have the resources and support they need to succeed, athletically and academically and to establish “a solid foundation that will allow us to attract the brightest and best to CWU and continue on a trajectory of excellence,” Francois said. 

Media contact: Robert Lowery, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-1487,