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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington State decathlete Lee Walburn preparing for Olympic trials

Washington State decathlete Lee Walburn captured first team All-America honors last season.  (Courtesy of WSU Athletics)
By Teren Kowatsch Lewiston Tribune

Washington State decathlete Lee Walburn wrapped up his college career with an All-American finish at the NCAA national track and field meet on June 6 at Hayward Field in Eugene. After accomplishing this feat, Walburn found out he could potentially make the jump from All-American to Olympian.

The Whitefish, Montana, native will be competing in the USATF Olympic trials, set to take place Friday through June 30, at the same field where he finished seventh at Nationals in the decathlon.

“It meant the world to get All-American,” Walburn said. “That’s something that’s been a big goal of mine for a long time. To be able to finally achieve that is a great feeling because you know how much time, and energy and work I’ve been into this the past four years. So that’s a wonderful feeling.”

Walburn was a part of one of the most successful outdoor track and field seasons for the Cougars in recent years.

He was one of three athletes to achieve All-American status for Washington State at Nationals, joining 100-meter hurdlers Maribel Caicedo and Micaela De Mello.

“(The season) was just incredible,” Walburn said. “It was all thanks to the amazing coaches we have here and the time, effort and energy that they put into us. We really wouldn’t be able to achieve what we want without their help and support and all they do for us.

“It was just an incredible season to be a part of. This team, so many people did so many amazing things. It’s really neat to train with people who are just as driven, just as passionate, and are just incredible athletes because it just drives you to want to be better.”

Walburn has had very little time to breathe in the last month. He graduated from Washington State, competed at the nationals – which included a Day 2 performance where he jumped from 11th to seventh place – and now he has the Olympic trials on the horizon.

Not too shabby for someone from a small Montana town of 8,915 people.

“It all happened so fast,” Walburn said. “I’m still processing the emotions of the last meet. But it’s just an incredible feeling to realize I have the opportunity to represent myself, my family, Montana (and) the WSU community. It’s just a cool feeling that I get to go out there and, if something crazy happens, you get a chance to represent the (Olympic) team.”

As much success as Walburn has enjoyed, first at nationals and now competing in the Olympic trials, it hasn’t come without a few hiccups. Walburn, since he’s graduated, wasn’t able to receive any financial assistance from WSU for his travel to the trials in Eugene.

He had to launch a GoFundMe to pay for the travel, which has exceeded its goal of $5,000 ($7,738 as of Friday).

“People have been absolutely incredible and amazing,” Walburn said. “We’ve already hit our goal. The WSU community, the Montana community, the Whitefish community where I’m from, friends and family – they’ve all just been so supportive and incredible and helped so much. It just means a lot because it’s just me with a dream trying to go to trials and do something. So the fact that people would put their hard-earned money into something like that, I can’t express how much that truly means.”

Walburn has had an interesting journey to get to this point. He started his career at Carroll College in Montana before transferring to the Cougars his junior year before the 2022-23 season.

In just two seasons competing in Pullman, Walburn has the second-best finish in school history in both the pentathlon (5,690 points) and decathlon (7,816).

The man who’s above Walburn in the all-time decathlon finish is Simon Shirley, who competed in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

If Walburn were to follow in Shirley’s steps, he could join his Cougars teammates Caicedo and De Mello in Paris for the Olympics (though all three would be representing different countries).

“Honestly it’s a dream come true,” Walburn said. “For the past three, four years, I’ve watched national competitions on my phone or on the TV and have watched all these other athletes. And all I remember is thinking ‘man, I want to be there so bad.’

“I don’t feel like I’m burnt out or exhausted or anything. This is what I’ve been hoping for and training for and putting all that work in so I can be here at this time. It’s a special honor to keep competing when almost everyone else’s seasons are over.”