MOSCOW, Idaho – With the 2016 Rio Olympics just a few short weeks away, several former Vandals are competing for a shot at Olympic glory in their national qualifiers.
The U.S. Olympic Team Trials began last Thursday and run through Sunday, July 10. The 2016 Canadian Championships and Rio Selection Trials begin on Thursday and run through Sunday. The Vandals will also have one competitor at the Latvian Olympic Trials.
Russ Winger will take on the discus competition, beginning on Thursday and concluding on Friday. Winger, the 2007 North Idaho Male College Athlete of the Year, had an incredibly successful career with the Vandals. He won the discus completion at the WAC Championships in 2008 and the Big West Championships in 2005. He placed second as a freshman in 2004 and third as a junior in 2006. Winger is no stranger to the national stage, having finished as the runner-up in the discus competition at the 2013 USA Outdoor Championships. Winger was also a distinguished shot putter, finishing second at the NCAA Indoor Championships twice. He holds the school record in the discus, is second in the shot put and is third in the hammer throw.
Melinda Withrow, formerly Owen, will also be competing in the pole vault competition beginning on Friday. Withrow competed for the Vandals from 2004-08 and still holds the school records in the event, both indoor and outdoor. She won six individual WAC Championships during her tenure with the Vandals, three indoor and three outdoor, and finished fifth at the 2007 NCAA Indoor Championships. Withrow has remained on the national scene since graduating and was an Olympic Trials finalist in both 2008 and 2012.
Barry Britt will compete in the 5000-meters on Thursday. Britt is one of the most decorated distance runners in Idaho history, currently sitting in the top-10 in the 1500-meters, 5000-meters and 10,000-meters. He also competed in cross country for the Vandals. Britt won both the 5000-meters and 10,000-meters at the WAC Outdoor Championships in 2011 and 2013. He has competed for Canada many times, including the 2010 IAAF World Cross Country Championships and the 2010 NACAC Cross Country Championships.
Alycia Butterworth will compete in the 3000-meter steeplechase on Friday. Butterworth has steadily risen up the rankings in Canada since exhausting her eligibility with the Vandals last year. While in Moscow Butterworth dominated the 3000-meter steeplechase, winning the event three times and taking second once, as a freshman. She has the second fastest 3000-meter steeplechase time in program history and is 10th in team history in the 5000-meters. Butterworth enters the competition ranked fourth among senior athletes in the event.
Christie Moerman, formerly Gordon, will be competing in the 100-meter hurdles. Moerman twice finished as the runner-up in the event at the WAC Championships, in 2007 and 2010, and finished third twice, in 2006 and 2008. She also qualified for the NCAA First Round three times. Moerman currently boasts the second fastest 100-meter hurdles time in program history at 13.37 seconds. She has competed at the national stage many times before, including the 2007 and 2008 Canadian Outdoor Track and Field Championships, and enters the competition ranked seventh overall.
Angela Whyte will also compete in the 100-meter hurdles on Friday. Whyte, a 2010 Vandal Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, has been competing at the highest level since graduating in 2003. She represented Team Canada at both the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games, earning sixth in the event in Athens. Whyte is one of two women in the world to qualify for the IAAF World Championships in the 100-meter hurdles every year since 2001. She was a four-time All-American and five-time Big West champion during her time with the Vandals. Whyte helped lead the Vandals to Big West team titles in 2001 and 2003, earning Female Athlete of the Year and Women’s Track Athlete of the Year, respectively. Whyte recorded 13 school records in two years at Idaho, 12 of which still stand today.
Liga Velvere will compete at the Latvian Olympic Qualifiers in the 800-meters. Velvere was tremendous for the Vandals during her time in Moscow, winning five individual WAC titles. She won the 800-meters at the WAC Indoor Championships for three consecutive seasons, from 2011-2013, and won the 400-meter hurdles at the Outdoor Championships in 2011 and 2013. Velvere qualified for the NCAA Championships twice, earning Second Team All-America honors as a senior in 2013. She has remained on the national scene since graduating, competing at the European Championships in 2014 and the World Indoor Championships in 2016.
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