Forever and always
Track and field team seeks to continue success of old
It is no secret Liberty’s track and field program has garnered unprecedented success over the years, collecting 18 Indoor Big South Championships and 20 Outdoor Big South Championships along with three ECAC Championships. The Flames are setting their goals high this year and aiming to compete as an elite team at the national level.
“There are a lot of things that go into having a successful program, but probably the main thing is the heart of the athletes,” Head Coach Brant Tolsma said. “I think as Christian athletes, we have a distinct advantage in that we’re not necessarily limited by our own abilities. To achieve a performance beyond your ability you need a power beyond yourself.”
According to Tolsma, the program’s achievements stem not only from the talent of the athletes and the disciplined training regimen, but also from the spiritual growth of the team.
“Our coaches are genuinely interested in how we are doing mentally and emotionally at practice because they know that we won’t train well and compete well if our hearts and minds aren’t in it,” sophomore sprinter and hurdler Jeff Jacobs said. “They make sure we keep our priorities straight and stay focused on God through the whole season. When you know that you’re not competing for your own glory but competing to bring glory to God it makes hard training days easier because we have faith that God will bless our efforts and put us up on a stage where we can glorify him.”
The Liberty Kickoff was track and field’s first event of the season hosted Dec. 3-4 at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center. Jacobs said the meet was mostly against local Division III schools, so Liberty dominated the score across the board, despite not running their best times.
“We make sure we don’t overthink small meets, we do not train for each meet we train for the end of the season,” Jacobs said. “Not being discouraged by bad times early in the year, but knowing that our training is setting us up to be able to compete in the national championship at the end of the season.”
Tolsma said he has set specific goals for his athletes to accomplish this season, which will propel them toward further success. They are looking to run the table at the Big South Championship, win the IC4A Indoor Championship in Boston, have more athletes qualify for nationals and also score points at nationals.
“To reach a higher level of performance as a program, we have to start recruiting athletes with more God given potential,” Tolsma said. “And part of that lies in doing the work of recruiting, but another part is having a high level team that attracts high level athletes. You have to earn respect to be considered.”
To guarantee success for the future of this program means the Flames need to dig in and work hard this season, setting themselves up to compete against the top 25 teams in the NCAA.
“Through the years we’ve tried to teach athletes to trust the Lord for big things beyond themselves,” Tolsma said. “They dare to believe for big things and they dare to do the work that is required to accomplish big things.”
According to track and field’s mission statement, they desire to develop highly competitive teams of individuals who represent Jesus Christ in athletics and in daily life.
“As captains, one of the things we talked about doing was eliminating distractions when it comes to practices so that we can be productive in our training,” junior sprinter and captain Stephen Racanelli said. “But I think one of the most important things we can do for each other is making sure we are caring about the athletes in their spiritual life, that will help push us to that next level.”
According to Tolsma, the team has incredible depth and there is a great sense of competition amidst the team. These aspects will benefit their pursuit of future championships this season. Yet during their hunt for success, Tolsma does not hesitate to bring the focus back to tangible goals.
“But ultimately it’s not so much about winning and losing, as (it is) us getting better,” Tolsma said. “Our real goal is to have a better team this year than we had last year.”
Liberty will attend the Hokie Invitational Jan. 22-23 in Blacksburg, Virginia. The meet will be held at Rector Field House, site of the 2016 Big South Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Britton is a sports reporter.