Fort Lewis College is adding a new sport.
The department of athletics announced this week that beginning in the 2023-24 season, FLC will compete in indoor track and field.
The men’s and women’s indoor track and field teams will bring the department’s total to 16 programs offered at the NCAA Division II level.
Tabbed to pilot the programs is current women’s cross-country and track head coach Shawn Jakubowski. Jakubowski has been a member of the Skyhawks staff since serving as a volunteer coach in 2021, and has been elevated to the head cross-country and track and field coach, effective immediately.
“Coach Jakubowski is committed to excellence and has been instrumental in the success of our program since joining the Skyhawks,” said Director of Athletics Travis Whipple. “He has a tremendous background in growing cross-country and track and field programs throughout his career. We appreciate his vision for the future and look forward to partnering with him to enhance the student-athlete experience.”
Before joining the Skyhawks, Jakubowski was the head coach for the cross-country and track and field programs at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, from 2015-2020. At Berea, he guided the programs to six conference championships while qualifying two teams to NCAA national championships. He coached an individual to a national runner-up finish in the 3k steeplechase. Additionally, he aided in the transition from NAIA/USCAA to NCAA Division III.
“I am both honored and excited to be presented with this opportunity,” Jakubowski said. “I would like to thank Fort Lewis College and Director of Athletics Travis Whipple for this opportunity and all the support that has been given to our programs. I would also like to thank you, the Skyhawks coaching staff, for being so helpful and supportive. We are ready to get to work and start expanding the programs. I truly believe that we are sitting on a hidden gem here, and by adding indoor and expanding our outdoor program it shows that we are taking all the necessary steps to take the programs to the next level.”
Jakubowski’s knowledge in building a successful program from the ground up comes from his time as the head cross-country and track and field coach at Tennessee Wesleyan University. Jakubowski was instrumental in the inception of the first track program in school history, bringing in 52 recruits in seven months period and winning a conference championship in the program's first year of existence.
“In my first head coaching job, at Tennessee Wesleyan, I was tasked with starting their first-ever track and field program, and we ended up being a very successful NAIA program,” Jakubowski said. “While at Berea College, I helped the programs shift from being a competitive NAIA program to a competitive NCAA DIII program. I feel like those wonderful opportunities gave me a lot of relevant experience that I can use in expanding the programs at FLC.”
The addition of indoor will allow the Skyhawks to expand their current event offerings to include sprints and other shorter-distance races, opening the recruiting pool to current and future student-athletes to grow the program. Fort Lewis will join 13 additional Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference institutions that compete in indoor track and field. The season typically runs from early December through early March, culminating at the NCAA Division II Indoor Championships.
“All the other schools in our conference that have outdoor track also sponsor indoor so adding indoor track and field will close the recruiting gap a bit between us and our competition,” Jakubowski said. “It will also give our student-athletes more opportunities to compete and qualify for indoor conference and national championships. The teams are very excited about next year. Coming back from winter break and not competing until mid-March can be very difficult, and usually, we have to use the first few outdoor meets as rust busters. This will allow us to hit indoor meets in December as well as have a full indoor season and get that competitive racing edge early.”