Throws team thrives under Duncan, Croney

Hopkinsville junior Houston Croney, a thrower on the track and field team, practices by throwing chain links at the Ruter Track and Field Complex on Wednesday.

Jonah Phillips

While the casual WKU may be more familiar with the names David Mokone, Joseph Chebet, and Shakira Smith, other names are bringing national attention to the WKU track and field program as well.  

The WKU throws team, led by lone senior Houston Croney, has been setting records and not looking back since the beginning of this season. So far this year, the squad has combined for eleven top-ten finishes, six of which were top-three and two winning performances. But this new-found success started well before the beginning of the season.

In late August 2012, track and field coach Erik Jenkins announced the hiring of a new throws coach— Ashley Muffet Duncan.

Duncan was fresh off a one-year coaching stint at Murray State and a national-attention grabbing college career in which she was named to the all-Southeastern Conference team 11 times, all-American four times and finished runner-up in the shot put at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.

As soon as Duncan signed on at WKU, the start of something new was on the horizon.

“The first thrower I called into my office was Croney,” Duncan said. “I knew if he bought into my system everybody else would.”  

Croney bought into the system, as did the rest of the squad, and it’s believed around the team that the reason for the success this season is the trust that the athletes have built with the new coach.

“I like coach Duncan, she’s a lot different from what I was used, but she’s a very good coach,” Croney said.

Duncan attributes Croney’s leadership this year as a big reason for the success of sophomore throwers Travis Gerding, Eric Marr, and Zach Michaud.

“Houston had three successful years under his belt with a different coach, and at first I didn’t know how he would take to me telling him I was going to do things a bit differently,” Duncan said. “He took to the system right off the bat, and all of the throwers set PR’s at the first meet in December.  It was really cool to see the progress they had made.”  

This draws attention to the lingering question of who will serve as leader when the young squads senior leader graduates.

Both Duncan and Croney envision a rising leader in Travis Gerding.

“I basically told Travis  ‘there aren’t going to be many times in your life when somebody looks you in the face and tells you that you are going to need to step up and be a leader,’” Duncan said, “I think he responded to that very well.”  

The throws team has had a good start to the year and is looking to have a good finish, with past feats including multiple wins and a Sun Belt Conference Athlete of the Week award for Croney

Even with the headline-worthy honor, Croney took the award in stride.

“I accepted it humbly knowing that it wasn’t my best performance,” he said.

Look for the throws team as well as the rest of the Topper track & field team to forge on into the season this weekend in Geneva, Ohio Saturday and Murfreesboro, Tenn. Sunday.