Back in December, I reported that Maddy Outman ’08 had gone to Indiana University in Pennsylvania for graduate school, where she was dominating indoor track, and would be making a push for the Div II title in the pentathlon. Pardon me for forgetting to update EphBlog on the results, as Larry George reasonably requested.

Outman entered Nationals ranked #1 in the pentathlon, but finished sixth in the event. This gave her All-American status, and redoubled her motivation to train for the heptathlon in outdoor track.

Maddy Outman wrote an account of her experience at Div II indoor nationals. Here are some excerpts, with the full text below the break:

While the academic caliber of IUP has been a pleasant surprise, track and field remains my main attraction to IUP, knowing from my past experience what Coach White will do to transform the program into a powerhouse. […] While in Division III, I had the great fortune to participate in three national championship meets, and all of those competition experiences pale in comparison to the Division II Sports Festival.
[…]
We spent most of our time at the University of Houston, but we also visited Rice University, Memorial Park, the local rodeo and other uniquely Texan locales that made the trip more than a track meet alone. We visited one of the largest shopping malls in America where a $3,250 Gucci purse caused Coach White to remind us why we are in college: so that we become smart enough not to spend that kind of money on a bag!
Outman '08 with Liu Xiang and IUP teammates
Having the extra time also opened up serendipitous chances to meet famous athletes, including basketball player Sam Cassel, Chinese world-record hurdler Liu Xiang [see inset photo — Xiang with the three IUP athletes], Xiang’s world championship finalist teammate Shi Dongpeng, 100-meter world-record holder Leroy Burrell and Carl Lewis’ Hall of Fame coach Tom Tellez. Coach White is friends with Coach Tellez, and that relationship gave us the chance to practice with Coach Tellez twice – the very person who coached Carl Lewis to 10 Olympic medals.

March 25, 2009

At the closing ceremonies for the NCAA Division II Sports Festival, amid a fireworks display, three-time NCAA track and field champion Jolanda Jones reminded more than 1,000 athletes in track and field, swimming and wrestling that we had just experienced a once-in-a-lifetime event.

The winter sports festival represented a gigantic undertaking by the NCAA, providing athletes from all three sports the opportunity to meet other athletes from all over the country, experience the highest level of competition in our sports and get a taste of what the life of a professional athlete is like.

For the three of us competing for IUP, this trip was indeed the trip of a lifetime. I came from a Division III school to attend graduate school at IUP, primarily for track and field. While athletics is my main motivator, the more I learned about IUP’s renowned faculty and academic reputation, the more I became convinced that delaying my matriculation to law school was a productive choice. Here at IUP I have had the chance to work with world-famous professors in the sociology field, including Dr. Ackerman, himself an outstanding track and field athlete.

While the academic caliber of IUP has been a pleasant surprise, track and field remains my main attraction to IUP, knowing from my past experience what Coach White will do to transform the program into a powerhouse. I considered running for several Division I programs with adequate indoor facilities and greater financial support, but I believed so much in what IUP will be capable of that I chose Division II.

While in Division III, I had the great fortune to participate in three national championship meets, and all of those competition experiences pale in comparison to the Division II Sports Festival. Because of the timing of spring break the week before the meet, we were able to go to Texas early and adjust to the time change, the weather and the facility.

Our performances were definitely enhanced by having this extra time, as we were able to have solo practice time in the competition facility and take advantage of the 80-degree weather to build speed. However, our performances were also improved as a result of the special atmosphere of the trip.

This trip provided us with opportunities we would not have had if it were not for our participation in athletics. Our long jumper Nafee Harris had never been on a plane before, both Nafee and Ceasar Westbrook had only been out of the state of Pennsylvania on rare occasions, and none of us had ever spent time in Texas. Going to Houston early allowed all of us the chance to actually see and experience a completely different part of the country.

We spent most of our time at the University of Houston, but we also visited Rice University, Memorial Park, the local rodeo and other uniquely Texan locales that made the trip more than a track meet alone. We visited one of the largest shopping malls in America where a $3,250 Gucci purse caused Coach White to remind us why we are in college: so that we become smart enough not to spend that kind of money on a bag!

Having the extra time also opened up serendipitous chances to meet famous athletes, including basketball player Sam Cassel, Chinese world-record hurdler Liu Xiang, Xiang’s world championship finalist teammate Shi Dongpeng, 100-meter world-record holder Leroy Burrell and Carl Lewis’ Hall of Fame coach Tom Tellez. Coach White is friends with Coach Tellez, and that relationship gave us the chance to practice with Coach Tellez twice – the very person who coached Carl Lewis to 10 Olympic medals.

We spent some of that time with Coach Tellez’s club athletes who were training for Division I NCAA and post-collegiate competition. While practicing at Rice University, we shared the track with nine Olympic medalists. This opened our eyes to the lives of professional athletes and what it takes to compete at the highest level of track and field.

The actual meet experience was defined by its details as much as by the event competitions. Our compliance director, Fran Nee, and athletic director, Dr. [Frank] Condino checked in on us frequently, making us feel that we were truly representing the university in a meaningful way. The NCAA afforded us special athlete privileges; from an exclusive athlete lounge to free merchandise and free food and Gatorade throughout the competition.

The end results of the meet were a fitting end to a fantastic experience, almost a footnote to the experience of the trip as a whole. All three of us achieved All-American status, with the men finishing 18th as a team – the highest indoor finish ever for the men’s team.

Said Nafee, “This was the trip of a lifetime – I will never forget training with Carl Lewis’ coach and the way everything was put together to make us feel important.”

For Ceasar, attending his second national meet as an IUP athlete, the support of the coaches, the athletic department and the school during our entire trip represented a changing attitude toward track and field, one that is “going in a different and better direction – we are looking forward to a great outdoors.”

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