Latvian transfers bring experience from overseas

Senior jumper Toms Andersons and senior thrower Laura Igaune, are both graduate students who came from Latvia to compete in track and field for WKU. Andersons’ main event is the high jump and Igaune’s is the weight throw.

Lucas Aulbach

Laura Igaune and Toms Andersons may have been in America only since last September, but that’s all right. They’re used to new places.

The two standout members of WKU’s track and field teams had already been across Europe and other parts of the world before this year as a part of the Latvian national track and field teams.

Andersons, who has posted season-best distances in several jumping categories for WKU, and Igaune, who Head Coach Erik Jenkins said is one of the top-three performers in the Sun Belt Conference weight throw, are both natives of Latvia in northeastern Europe. 

Both are enrolled at WKU this year as graduate students and are finishing their last season of athletic eligibility.

They became a part of the team after being recruited by Jenkins.  Sophomore hurdler Karlis Daube, a Latvian native who came to WKU during his freshman year, also played a big part in convincing the two to come.

Daube said he was able to help get Iguane and Andersons involved through his relationship with other coaches and athletes.

“I knew coach Jenkins, the head coach, and he knew another guy, and another guy knew that guy,” Daube said, laughing.  “It was a big chain.”

Jenkins was very positive about what the two athletes bring to the table for WKU this year.

“Both of them bring a different approach to the team,” he said.  “Laura is very competitive, and Toms is a hard worker who we hope can really make a difference soon.”

Despite their experiences overseas, Andersons and Igaune definitely fit the definition of “student-athletes.”  When asked what other activities they participate in on campus, the first word both said was “studying.”

“Sometimes some parties too, but that’s only after season,” Andersons said.

Andersons said the Latvian team performed in many European countries as well as other places across the world, including Thailand and Egypt.

Despite their similar experiences and upbringing in the city of Riga, Latvia, Andersons said he and Igaune didn’t know each other before this year.

Their experiences on other teams prepared them for competition in America and have led to some top performances this year. However, that’s not to say they haven’t encountered anything new while in the country.

Andersons said most of his experience in Europe was individual, and competition in America is much more team-based.

“I’ve always been by myself,” he said.  “Here the team thing is very important, whereas back in Europe it was only about you.”

While she has found great success in the weight throw, Igaune also said she had never thrown the standard competition weight before this year.

“In Latvia we don’t throw weights,” she said.  “Just hammers all season. It’s kind of close, but there is a difference.”

Igaune and Andersons are both planning to return to Latvia in June after the track season is finished and the semester is over. 

But until then, Jenkins said he believes they will continue to play a big role in WKU’s road to the Sun Belt Championships.

Igaune said she and Andersons feel the same.

“This team is the reason that we are here,” she said.