Coombs and White win Individual ODAC Titles

VWC Track and Field programs won individual ODAC titles as senior Trey White brought home the 800m title. Junior Marissa Coombs won the 800m and the mile while also securing her spot in the NCAA Division III National Championships.

Coombs won both of her individual events and broke two ODAC championship records. She won the 800m with a time of 2:16.77, beating the mark of 2:16.80, and was a full second ahead of her opponents. Following this race, she competed in the mile, and won with a time of 5:02.01, again beating the previously set time of 5:03.54.

“It feels rewarding after I’ve trained all season to break two ODAC records. They were both set by incredible athletes that I have a lot of respect for,” Coombs said.

Hopefully leading her team to another record-breaking success, Coombs will compete this weekend at the 2017 NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships in Naperville, Illinois, for the second year in a row. Coombs is the only National Qualifier in the history of VWC Women’s Track and Field.

“The atmosphere is what I’m most excited for. It’s very eclectic and inspiring. Everyone who will be running is the best of the best and we all earned our way there. It’s an honor to be able to run at nationals,” Coombs said.

White continued to lead the men’s team with an ODAC Championship in the 800-meter race. White finished first in the 800 meter with a time of 1:56.56, just three tenths of a second ahead of Tyler Denlinger of EMU, and ran his career best in the 800 meter despite this being his first year competing in the event. White also contributed to his team’s finishing second in the 4 by 400-meter relay, a season best.

“I definitely thank God for it. It was my first year running the 800 and my coach believed I had a lot of potential in it so I’ve been working hard at it,” White said.

At the conclusion of the meet, the men finished one spot ahead of last year’s seventh-place finish, placing sixth overall out of nine schools competing. In previous years, the Marlins have placed as high as third place and are currently still looking for the team ODAC Championship.

“As a competitor I feel as if we could’ve placed higher overall as a team, but this was just a learning experience for all of us and it serves as motivation to be more competitive as outdoor season approaches,”  freshman Keyontae Norfleet said.

Despite having one of the smallest teams in the ODAC, the women’s track and field team tied with Roanoke for third place with 69 points. The third-place finish is the highest in program history for the Marlins, beating their previous finish of fifth place. However, like the men’s team, they are still looking to finally finish first in the ODAC Championships.

“I’m proud that our team placed third this season in indoor ODACs. We’re one of the smallest teams in the ODAC, so it’s really impressive that we were able to place that high with only a few point scorers compared to other schools,” Coombs said.

The Virginia Wesleyan College men and women’s track and field teams both started the season strong this year. Prior to the ODAC Championship meet, the Marlins competed in the annual Artie O’Connor Invitational, held at the historic Armory Track & Field Center in New York City. The meet is said to attract schools and athletes who are looking for first-class marks as they move toward their conference championships.

While at the annual Artie O’Connor Invitational, the men’s team defeated two Division I programs in Columbia University and Hofstra University, while the women’s team put up its best numbers in school history, placing seventh out of 19 teams. Both teams carried their momentum forward into the ODAC championships on Feb. 26, bringing home record-breaking times and many life lessons.

“I’ve learned the importance of believing in yourself. God blessed me with some of the greatest memories on the track and I’ve also learned many lessons in each one. I’m really thankful to have had this opportunity,” White said.

The Marlins were also led by Norfleet who only recently made the transition from high school to collegiate athletics. Norfleet recorded the second-highest placing for the Marlins right behind White. Norfleet placed third in the 200-meter and also competed in the 4 by 400-meter relay.

“As a freshman, it felt great competing in a college championship atmosphere. In high school, I’ve competed in New Balance nationals numerous times and it was nothing compared to the college atmosphere,” Norfleet said.

Following the conclusion of indoor season, the Marlins plan to use it as a learning experience and use it as motivation to perform and prepare better for outdoor season.

“We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year. We have a busy outdoor season, so it’s key that we’re taking care of ourselves mentally as well as physically to avoid burnouts and injuries,” Coombs said.

Amanda Archer

(Photo: Val Miller | Marlin Chronicle)