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Locally: Whitworth distance standout Kayla Leland honored during NCAA Convention

 (Courtesy of Whitworth athletics)
(Courtesy of Whitworth athletics)
From staff and news services

Kayla Leland of Spokane, a seven-time All-American distance runner at Whitworth and six-time Academic All-American, was selected last week during the NCAA Convention as one of its 2021 Today’s Top 10 Award winners.

The Gonzaga Prep graduate, a 2018 NCAA Woman of the Year finalist as a senior at Whitworth, was the only former Division III athlete recognized during the virtual honors celebration.

It is the second NCAA post-graduate award for Leland in five months. In August, she was the female recipient of a Walter Byers Graduate Scholarship that carries a $24,000 grant.

Both awards recognize male and female student-athletes from all three NCAA Divisions for their successes on the field, in the classroom and in the community. The Byers award selects one male and one female across all three divisions and can be renewed for a second year.

Leland, in her second year pursuing a doctor of pharmacy degree at Washington State, graduated summa cum laude from Whitworth in health science in 2018 with a 3.96 GPA while competing in cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field. She also played basketball as a freshman.

She was a member of the Whitworth Laureate Society, making the academic honor roll every year, and also received the Whitworth Mind and Heart Academic Scholarship, the school’s highest academic award.

A three-time Division III indoor track All-American in the 800, mile and 5,000, she was the national runner-up in the steeplechase in 2018, was an All-American in both the steeplechase and 1,500 in outdoor track and added two All-America honors in cross country. She holds 13 school records and two Northwest Conference records.

Leland plans to continue training in the steeplechase with dreams of competing in the Summer Olympics.

Besides athletics and academics, Leland found time to be actively involved in the community. She volunteered heavily, including with the Salvation Army food bank, the Whitworth Community Building Day and Hoopfest. She also served as a team lead for the Trick or Treat So Kids Can Eat food drive for Second Harvest Food Bank and coached at a youth basketball camp.

At WSU, she made the College of Pharmacy dean’s list, is a College of Pharmacy Outstanding Merit Scholarship recipient and belongs to the Rho Chi Honor Society for being in the top 20% of her pharmacy class.

“Upon graduation, my short-term goal is to utilize my Spanish-speaking ability to serve as a pharmacist in underprivileged areas of the world,” Leland wrote in her Byers application essay.

“As for my long-term goals, I want to pursue cancer research. … As a future pharmacist with extensive knowledge of pharmaceuticals and various drug properties, looking for cancer developments and eventually cures is of upmost importance.”

Chosen by the NCAA Walter Byers Scholarship Committee, recipients are recognized “for combining the best elements of mind and body to achieve national distinction for their achievements and to be future leaders in their chosen field of career service.”

College scene

Thirty points, 22 rebounds and 10 assists in two wins earned Eastern Washington freshman Aliyah Alexander Big Sky Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Week honors for the week ending Jan. 11.

As the Eagles swept Weber State, Alexander collected the first double-double of her career (15 points and 12 rebounds) in a 78-57 win and followed with 15 points and 10 rebounds in a 71-59 victory. She added 10 assists and three steals in the two games and shot 13 of 14 from the free throw line and hit 3 of 7 3-pointers.

• More honors for Washington State’s attention-grabbing women’s basketball team and freshman sensation Charlisse Leger-Walker.

WSU’s come-from-behind 71-69 overtime win over No. 7/10 Arizona on Jan. 10 earned the Cougars national team of the week from the both the NCAA and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, a No. 25 national ranking (the school’s first-ever national ranking) and Leger-Walker was selected the USBWA Tamika Catchings National Freshman of the Week.

Leger-Walker scored 10 of her 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including the tying basket that sent the game into overtime and the winning basket, as the Cougars overcame a 16-point deficit. She also earned a third-straight, and fourth in five weeks, Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award.

• Area athletes at Lewis-Clark State College collected Cascade Collegiate Conference basketball player of the week honors for the week ending Jan. 10.

Sara Muehlhausen, a sophomore from Lake City, received the women’s award after recording the best game of her career. In a non-conference win over College of Idaho, the 6-foot-3 post scored a career-high 14 points and added six rebounds, a block and a steal. She shot 5 of 8 from the field and 4 of 5 from the free-throw line.

Trystan Bradley, a 6-8 senior forward from Lewiston, was the male recipient after scoring 102 points as the Warriors won four of five games in seven days.

Bradley started the week tying his career-high with 27 points; followed with a new career-high 30 points, highlighted by five 3-pointers; followed that with nine 3-pointers and a combined 29 points in two games against No. 5 Arizona Christian (a split); and finished the week with a 16-point effort.

• Washington State senior Chloe Larson set a Gibb Pool record in the 50-yard freestyle, winning the event on Friday with a 22.70-second time in a Pac-12 swimming dual meet loss to Utah in Pullman. It broke the record of 23.04 set by Stanford’s Taylor Ruck, a Canadian Olympian, in 2018.

• Eastern Washington’s 314 student-athletes, led by 68 posting a perfect 4.0, collectively compiled a 3.41 GPA in fall quarter of 2020, the 40th consecutive quarter the Eagles had a combined 3.0 or above.

All 12 programs had at least a 3.21 with 10 having at least a 3.30. Women’s volleyball and women’s golf had the top GPAs at 3.72. Men’s sports were led by tennis at 3.70 and basketball at 3.40. Eighty-one percent (254) of all athletes had at least a 3.0 and 175 had a 3.5 or above.

• With women’s basketball leading the way with a program-high 3.65 GPA, Washington State student-athletes compiled at collective 3.21 GPA for the fall 2020 semester.

Twelve of WSU’s 13 program posted GPAs of 3.0 or above and four besides women’s basketball had program highs – baseball (3.12), men’s basketball (3.12), rowing (3.40) and swimming (3.51). On the men’s side, golf led the way with a 3.27. Sixty-three percent of all student-athletes had GPAs of 3.0 or above with 40 collecting a perfect 4.0.

Golf

Former Palouse rivals Ryan Porch and Derek Bayley finished first and third, respectively, at the Outlaw Tour’s Power Ranch Championship last week at Trilogy Golf Club in Gilbert, Arizona.

Porch, who completed his career at the University of Idaho in 2017 and plays out of Glendale, Ariz., won the 54-hole tournament with a 13-under 200 (70-64-66) and won $5,000.

Bayley, the former Washington State standout from Rathdrum who completed his Cougars career in 2018, was third at 11-under 202 (64-70-68) to earn $2,400.

• Four area courses are included in Golfweek magazine’s best courses for 2021.

Circling Raven at the Coeur d’Alene Casino in Worley and The Coeur d’Alene Resort Course, home of the famous floating green, are listed in Golfweek’s Top 200 Resort Courses in the U.S. Circling Raven is 139th and the Coeur d’Alene Resort is tied at No. 182.

On the list of the Top 200 Residential Courses, Gozzer Ranch, located in Harrison north of Coeur d’Alene, is No. 6, and The Club at Rock Creek, overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene, is tied at 108. Those courses are in residential developments or private clubs that offer public access.

Kalispel Golf and Country Club in north Spokane was rated No. 31 in Golfweek’s November 2020 ratings for Top 50 Casino Courses. Circling Raven was No. 19. Kalispel was also No. 9 in Golfweek’s best courses to play in Washington in 2020.

Hockey

You can watch video of former Spokane Chiefs defenseman and captain Ty Smith‘s first NHL goal in his first NHL game Thursday on the Spokane Chiefs’ website, spokanechiefs.com.

Smith’s goal at 13:46 of the third period tied the game against Boston at 2-2. The Bruins won 3-2 in a shootout. Smith also had an assist on the Devils’ first goal.

Letters of intent

Idaho women’s track: Freshman: Annika Jozin, HJ, Wawa, Ontario.

Soccer

Katie Benz, an assistant coach at Montana the last four years, has been hired for a similar position on the Gonzaga University women’s staff, Bulldogs head coach Chris Watkins announced.

During her time at Montana, the Grizzlies won two Big Sky Conference championships, including a tournament title in 2018 that sent the school to its first NCAA Tournament since 2011, and a regular-season title in 2019. She oversaw the program for four months in 2018 while the Grizzlies were between head coaches.

Born in Nova Scotia and raised in Sonoma, California, Benz played collegiately at California, helping the Bears to four NCAA Tournament appearances. As a senior in 2011, she scored 10 goals in the first eight matches before suffering a career-ending broken leg.

The 2012 Cal graduate started her college coaching career in 2016 as director of operations at the University of Denver.

Miscellany

The 31st annual Vandal Scholarship Fund Gala, featuring a virtual format for the first time and online silent and live auctions, is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Jan. 29. Proceeds benefit the University of Idaho and Moscow community.

Sponsorship opportunities are available. Contact Desmond Banks, associate director of development, at desmondb@uidaho.edu for more information.

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