Trust the process: ODU track & field’s journey to success **for Mag**
Contributing Writer | Jazzmyn Bradley
Within the tight-knit community at Old Dominion University, students are always encouraged to set high goals and to strive for excellence. However, this determined group of students took on a challenging goal many would shy away from these days; establishing a new varsity team from scratch.
ODU Track and Field was established as an official ODU organization in December 2016 and eventually reached club status. Coach Kenneth McCreary has guided them every step of the way. Currently, he is serving in his second year as the head coach of these determined athletes. McCreary coaching experience spans over 11 years. Some notable accolades include coaching nine state qualifiers and eight national qualifiers between two states. He is also a 2010 graduate of Purdue University.
Gaining their club status was no walk in the park, especially since none of the founding members possessed any experience establishing an organization. A reoccurring obstacle of constantly having difficulties securing practice spaces and meetings locations stunted team growth. In the team’s embryonic stages, practices were held at the Student Recreation Center located on campus, but they were quickly asked to move on to another facility. Nevertheless, they kept their heads high and became determined to perfect their craft. Sometimes they practice at local high schools but athletic departments often charged the team hefty fees. However, Boo Williams Sportsplex quickly become their haven for regular practices.
Since the track team is relatively new to campus and not an official varsity sport, they have to provide their funding. In the wake of financial difficulties, the team had to think and act fast to ensure every athlete could participate. The group began to work diligently, sometimes in cold temperatures, at the Norfolk Harbor-Fest Half Marathon, Snap-Raise, and even organized car washes.Bryan Carey, former team marketing coordinator, expressed his teams recruiting difficulties. He recalled having trouble pitching to individual students due to their club status; some students do not view club teams as real official teams.
This negative stigma caused the group to be small in numbers in their early stages. Some students were not willing to trust the process thus more and more students faded away. Conditioning a team to compete against well established collegiate track and field teams takes hard work and dedication, not everyone is up for the challenge. Keeping in mind that underclassmen students would eventually become the future of the program, the founding members made a point to target underclassmen who were fresh out of their high school programs as they could bring youth to the team. Transfer students quickly became attracted to the tight-knit family the track team provides, and soon became a cornerstone of members.
On December 4th, 2015 the newly formed Old Dominion Track & Field team was set to compete in their first meet at CNU. The team was ecstatic to finally apply the skills and abilities they were sharpening in practice. Facing premier athletes from Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University, Norfolk State University, Virginia Wesleyan and Virginia Union, all whom have established varsity programs. Due to lack of depth and experience, they could not keep up with the opposing teams for the duration of the meet. At this moment, the team had an epiphany. They experienced their first taste of collegiate level competition. Now knowing what to expect the team focused on what to work on to become better.
It became evident that the process would not be quick and easy, but a slow painful grind. This experience hurt the pride of the team but would become quintessential in their success later on in their journey.
Following another devastating meet at the University of North Carolina, Coach McCreary decided to have an open heart-to-heart discussion with his team. McCreary felt extremely disappointed in himself as well as the team, but the team took full responsibility for the results of the meet. A coach can do all the preparations, drills, and speeches in the world but once that gun fires it is up to the athlete to compete to their best ability. This interaction with their coach ignited a fire within the team, and which presented itself during their next meet.
They began to look like a new team, and schools that previously decimated them became impressed with their performance. ODU kept up with them and even place in the top portion of events. The stellar performance of the squad prompted opposing coaches to invite the team to invitational meets the following year. ODU Track & Field was beginning to be recognized by their competition and take off.
Fast forwarding to December 9th, 2017, the team kicked off their second year of competition at CNU. This time around was a much different experience from their first meet. The organization grew with nine new additions, four freshmen and three transfer students. Returning athlete and team captain Andre Clark made it to the semi-finals in the 60m hurdles. Samone Davis set a PR by a foot in the women’s long jump event. Isaiah Robertson, in his first collegiate meet, had an outstanding showing in his leg of the men’s 4×4 relay. 2018 will be another great year for Old Dominion Track & Field if those previously mentioned showings are indicative of the team’s future. The unit can only improve from this point on. The President of the program Imani Murray’s vision is beginning to come to fruition.
Moving forward, the organization seeks to build up an impressive competition rapport and resume. The ultimate goal is to become endorsed by the university as a varsity team and obtaining their on-campus facility. They are a real testament that hard work will pay off. With increased exposure leading to more participation hopefully, their desires will come about.
To keep up with ODU’s Track & Field team, you can visit their website, http://www.odutrack.com/ . You can also follow them on Instagram and Twitter, @odutrack.