New Faces, Old Traditions

An introduction to the three new head coaches at Western.

Nicholas A. Fischer/ Staff Writer

On the hills of Western’s one hundredth anniversary, in Aug. 2012, 89 years of Western State College of Colorado became Western State Colorado University. The name was not the only thing to change as school administrators implemented a plan to modernize Western in a variety of ways so Western traditions can continue on for another 100 years.

The campus was transformed with the construction of the Mountaineer Field House, Pinnacle Apartments, and the Borick Business Building. Taylor, Kelly, Quigley, Hurst and Crawford Halls all underwent renovations that modernized their classrooms. The campus wasn’t the only thing to change, as the logos and MadJack undertook new looks. Western even added Women’s Soccer, and Swimming and Diving programs to the list of NCAA Division II programs offered.

Western athletics were challenged when the school underwent these changes in 2012 to carry on the 100-year tradition of commitment to academics, community,  and team, while striving to improve every year. This year Western brought in three new head coaches that are committed to these values to fill the vacant spots on the Women’s Basketball, Soccer, and Swimming and Diving team.

Western State Colorado University Women's Soccer team after win on Oct. 16 over #3 ranked Colorado School of Mines. Photo by Nicholas A. Fischer.
Western State Colorado University Women’s Soccer team after win on Oct. 16 over #3 ranked Colorado School of Mines. Photo by Nicholas A. Fischer.

Coach Amy Bell: Soccer

Formed in 2012, Western’s Women’s Soccer program was making slow strides forward each year. Coach Bell took over a team that was ready to be pushed to another level of play and has embraced the challenge this season. The team has embraced her understanding of the game to make improvements in their passing game, while leaning on her encouragement to push through tough overtime games.

The Mountaineers have had their struggles this season, but on Oct. 16, they were able to score a historic victory over the #3 ranked Colorado School of Mines with a goal in double overtime. It was a victory that goalkeeper Katie Simpson-Johnson says was because “coach Bell taught us to handle tough situations by having a fighting mentality to not give up and come out with the win.”

Prior to receiving the head coaching position at Western, Bell spent a year coaching with Colorado Olympic Development Program. This is an experience Katie Simpson-Johnson says “helped coach Bell develop an ability to think deeper and see things differently about the game than other coaches.” Bell was also the head coach of Chowan State where her proudest accomplishment was seeing the team’s GPA go from a 2.0 to a 3.4.  

During her time Chowan, Bell took great pride in developing and working with the local youth soccer program. Bell as well as Western soccer player are looking forward to working with youth programs across the Gunnison Valley. While encouraging her players to achieve academic success and become strong members of the community, she hopes to “continue to develop the program to be more competitive each time out.”

Coach Bell is the second coach of Westerns Women soccer team since its founding in 2012.

Western’s Women’s Soccer team finishes off their season with home games on Oct. 28 and 30 at Gateway Field.

Sydnie Lengyel and Coach Lora Westling going over practice tape. Photo by Nicholas A. Fischer.
Sydnie Lengyel and Coach Lora Westling going over practice tape. Photo by Nicholas A. Fischer.

Coach Lora Westling: Basketball

Coach Westling has become the tenth head coach of Western’s women’s basketball team after being hired after the retirement of Coach Girard at the end of the 2015-16 season. Westling comes to Western after coaching three improving seasons at Illinois College. Westling was an important player on the 2005 Washburn NCAA DII championship team and also holds the school record for three pointers made and games played.

Coach Westling success made her and intriguing candidate to take over the program at Western, but her desire for toughness and accountability on and off the court and in the classroom is what made her a match for the Mountaineers. Westling would like her teams to also become a “force back in the community”. In addition to doing summer camps and kids camps, they will do a shoot around clinic before the first home game.

Even though the season has not started, coach Westling has already made an impact on her players. Senior Sydnie Lengyel says she has “grown more in the last months as player than ever before.” Lengyel also was excited to see the direction the team is going as they are more defensive driven and being challenged in practice to finish better than they start. Lengyel hopes that those efforts in practice will translate into greater success at the end of games this season.

Coach Westling would also like to extend an invitation to all male and female full time student recreational basketball players to come and join a practice team. They would like to put together to practice against the women’s team. If interested contact assistant coach Stephanie Gehlhausen at sgehlhausen@western.edu for more information.

Western’s Women’s Basketball opens their season on Nov. 18 in the CSU-Pueblo classic at Pueblo with their first home game on Nov. 29 in Paul Wright Gym.

Western State Colorado University Swimming and Diving team before practice in the highest collegiate pool in the world. Photo by Nicholas A. Fischer.
Western State Colorado University Swimming and Diving team before practice in the highest collegiate pool in the world. Photo by Nicholas A. Fischer.

Coach Randall Folker: Swimming and Diving

Coach Randall (Randy) Folker has taken the longest journey of the new coaches to reach Western. Not only was he in Hawaii for six of the last seven years, but has spent the last 25 years developing the skills needed to realize his goal of coaching a Division II swimming program. That goal was not to just coach any college program, but to coach the revitalized swimming program at the school that has the highest collegiate pool in the world, Western State Colorado University.

Since the return of the program in 2012, coach Folker had applied the three times the coaching job had opened up. Sophomore All-American swimmer Randi Yarnell says this is an important point because it shows “he really wanted to coach us for some reason, he plans on staying a while, and he was fighting for us. That’s the best kind of coach we can ask for.”

“Small town, small classes and quality athletics at altitude.” Is what coach Folker said put Western on the top of his list. That list consisted of 5 schools, but none were more important to coach Folker, and he said “This has been spot I wanted and when it opened again I jumped on it.”

Coach Folker’s goal is to develop a team of swimmers with high character and potential for academic success that will become excellent people through excellent swimming. One of the swimmers that already embodies this goal is 200m school record holder, RMAC All-Academic swimmer, SAAC president, and athletic ambassador to SAG, senior Kelsey Oettinger who said, “If he can stick around awhile and grow the program it could become a very strong and fast program since we have already started growing in that direction.”

Swimming and Diving will host Colorado Mesa University on Oct. 29 in the Mountaineer Field House Aquatic Center.  

The three new coaches bring with them the spirit of Western traditions, that hard work in the classroom and in sports can provide opportunities to improve the community that supports them. And this desire to have athletes achieve as much in the classroom and community as they do in competition can go a long way in helping Western State Colorado University achieve its goal of becoming a premier destination for learning in the heart of the Rockies.