Runner's academic success is WSU's 'finest hour'


Wichita State University distance runner Rebekah Topham remembers anxiety and tears and 15-hour days on campus for practice, class, study hall and tutors as a freshman in 2015. Every assignment loomed as a mountain of new instructions, difficult words and pressure. Essay questions presented a new level of stress – a tangle of reading, comprehension and spelling challenges.

“I would see a rubric or see directions – and it still happens sometimes; I’ll still get overwhelmed at times – but I’m ‘OK, I’ve done this stuff before, and I’ll be fine,” she said. “At first, I didn’t have that. Overwhelming is an understatement.”

Topham, a 2019 All-American in the steeplechase, graduated this month with a 3.89 grade-point average. She will return for her final year of outdoor track eligibility in 2021 and earn her coaching certificate.

Wichita State director of athletics Darron Boatright remembers telling former WSU president John Bardo about Topham’s challenges. Boatright believed the support system in the athletic department would write a success story.

“Make this our finest hour,” he said. “That’s what the people who are hands-on with Rebekah did. It’s a great testament to our institution and what we can provide to students. That’s not just athletics – it goes all the way across campus.”

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