Stewart proud of WKU's success this spring

The Western Kentucky University athletics department has seen plenty of success this spring, and according to athletic director Todd Stewart, he doesn’t see it slowing down anytime soon.

In a letter addressed to Hilltoppers fans Thursday, Stewart touched on several of WKU’s recent accomplishments — some of which have set new program standards along the way.

“Our winning momentum in continuing, and it has been an exciting spring,” said Stewart, in his 12th year as WKU’s AD. “Our men’s basketball team won the Conference USA Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013, Hank Plona is our new men’s basketball coach, Luke Fuller won the C-USA Men’s Golf Championship, Catie Craig was selected for her second straight NCAA Women’s Golf Regional, and baseball is having its best season since 2009.

“Commencement week is always a special time on The Hill, and this week, 66 student-athletes graduate from Western Kentucky University — 51 as undergraduates and 15 with graduate degrees. Another 15 will graduate this summer.”

In leading the WKU women’s golf team to a third-place finish at the C-USA Championships, Craig earned her second consecutive trip to an NCAA Regional event. As the only individual in program history to reach a regional competition, Craig will compete at the East Lansing Regional on May 6-8. Meanwhile, Fuller won WKU’s first conference championship since 2006 and will compete at the NCAA West Lafayette Regional on May 13-15.

Men’s and Women’s Golf finished very strong spring seasons at the CUSA Championships. The women finished third and Catie Craig will compete next week (May 6-8) at the NCAA East Lansing Regional. The only individual in women’s program history to qualify for an NCAA Regional, this now marks the second consecutive year Craig has earned this opportunity. On the men’s side, graduate student Luke Fuller became our first Conference Champion since 2006 and will compete at the NCAA West Lafayette Regional (May 13-15). Prior to 2022-23, a Hilltopper golfer had qualified for NCAA Regionals just three times in the two programs’ combined histories, but the golfing duo helped WKU double its total number of golfers to make NCAA Regionals in the last 13 months alone.

The Western baseball team, at 31-14 overall, sits in first place in Conference USA as head coach Mark Rardin is now two victories away from the 1,000-win mark for his career. The C-USA Tournament will be held May 22-26 in Ruston, Louisiana.

The Hilltoppers’ softball team is also 29-18-1 and wraps up this weekend with a home series against UTEP, as WKU looks to secure the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in next week’s C-USA Tournament in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

WKU tennis players Rachel Hermanova and Samantha Martinez set the program record for career singles wins (49) and career doubles wins (56), respectively.

Track and field’s Katie Isenbarger beat her previous school record with a 1.88-meter high jump this spring.

And, following graduation this weekend inside Houchens-Smith Stadium, Western is planning to replace the field turf ahead of the 2024 campaign this fall. The Hilltoppers are also adding a new press box above the Harbaugh Club, which is set to be completed before the home opener Sept. 6.

“There are so many exciting things happening on The Hill and within WKU Athletics,” Stewart continued. “As we wrap up the 2023-24 season and look ahead to 2024-25, I am very appreciative of our student-athletes, coaches and staff who work so hard every day to represent Western Kentucky University the right way, both in the classroom and in competition.”