VU’s Gafner among Hoosiers chosen as state’s bicentennial relay torchbearers
INDIANAPOLIS – Vincennes University Track & Field and Cross Country Coach Chris Gafner is among 41 people honored by the state of Indiana as Bicentennial Torch Relay torchbearers as part of the state’s celebration of its 200th Anniversary Torch Relay.
Names of more than 2,000 Hoosiers nominated and chosen as torchbearers were announced Wednesday in Indianapolis by Indiana Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb and state tourism officials.
- The complete list of torchbearers, plus their home counties, can be found at:
During the program, state officials making the announcement said the honorees were chosen because they “embody the Indiana traditions of service, civic pride, community involvement and volunteerism.”
Holcomb added, “As we reflect on Indiana’s first two-hundred years, it’s only fitting that we celebrate Hoosiers who serve as inspirations in their communities.”
Torchbearers were nominated by the public and selected by local committees on a county-by-county basis. More than 4,000 torchbearer nominations were received.
The relay is patterned after the Olympic Torch Relay and was designed to connect Hoosiers everywhere during the bicentennial year. The route showcases locations of natural beauty, local interest and historic significance. The Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay will start Sept. 9 in Corydon (Indiana’s first state capital) and culminate with a celebration on Oct. 15 at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. The torch relay will touch each of Indiana’s 92 counties during the 3,200-mile journey across the state.
The Vincennes University Track & Field Teams have consistently been among the NJCAA’s top Div. I programs.
In building itself into an elite junior college program and maintaining that status for more than four decades, VU has recorded consistent top-10 national team finishes and amassed eight NJCAA national team titles, while crowning 32 individual national champions. Along the way, members of the Trailblazer Track & Field Teams have earned 108 NJCAA All-American designations, while about 287 VU competitors have been national placers and three have garnered national records in track & field competition.
Success breeds success and the strong Trailblazer recruiting class for the 2017-18 school year indicates that VU’s achievements on the national level will continue into the future.
As for the program’s heritage, many VU athletes have gone on to star at the NCAA level, including NJCAA record-holder Natalia Bartnovskaya who followed up her stellar VU career by becoming the Kansas Jayhawks' school record-holder in both indoor and outdoor pole vault, a two-time NCAA First-Team All-American and a NCAA national champion for Kansas in 2013. Other notable alumni include Ryan Smith who won the NCAA title in the shot put for the University of Indianapolis in 2013, Tatiana Zhuravela who won a discus national title for the University of Indianapolis in 2014 and Pierre Banks’ 110 meter hurdle championship for Wayland Baptist in 2014 .
Vincennes University has named Randy Heisler as the head coach for men’s and women’s Cross Country and Track and Field. Heisler comes to VU after more than 30 years of coaching experience at the NCAA Div. 1 level.
"Randy brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our track program,” said Harry Meeks, VU athletic director. “He has vast knowledge of the state and surrounding states relating to recruiting cross country/track and field athletes. I feel he will fit well with VU's athletic programs and we look forward to his success.”
"I want to thank both President Johnson and Athletic Director Harry Meeks for their trust and the opportunity they have given me to be a member of the Vincennes University family. When I received the call about this position, I talked it over with my wife and decided it was a great opportunity for us to remain in Indiana and be near family. As a lifelong Indiana resident with family and friends from South Bend to Evansville and everywhere in between, I just couldn't pass this up. Vincennes University has had a long and strong history of championship finishes at the NJCAA as well as moving many student athletes along to the next level in their athletic careers. I look forward to building on that tradition and am proud to be a Trailblazer."
Heisler served as an assistant coach at Indiana University for 15 years under the direction of legendary Coach Sam Bell. Upon Bell’s retirement, Heisler was named head women's coach and three years later took over as director and head coach for both the men's and women's programs.
Under Heisler's direction the Hoosier women won three Big Ten Team titles and finished in the top 8 at the NCAA Championships four times. The men's team finished 4th at the NCAA Championships for their highest placing in more than 20 years. During Heisler’s stay in Bloomington, the Hoosiers won a total of 14 Big Ten Team titles and produced dozens of individual Big Ten Champions and NCAA All America honor winners. Heisler has also coached numerous national champions as well as United States Olympic Team members.
Heisler became the head coach for the women's Cross Country and Track and Field programs at Ball State University in 2007 and held that position until the fall of 2015. Heisler’s teams finished consistently in the top half of the MAC and produced numerous MAC individual Champions, as well as NCAA regional qualifiers.
Heisler is no stranger to high-level competition. He is the winner of three NCAA Div. ll national titles for the University of Indianapolis in the discus, setting a national record that stood for nearly three decades. He continued to compete after graduation, earning a berth on 13 United States international teams. These included earning medals at both two Pan American Games as well as The World University Games, two world championships, as well as competing in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Heisler’s athletic career included him being a finalist in four USA Olympic Trials competitions, one of only a handful of individuals to hold that distinction.
Heisler’s career has also included directing numerous MAC, Big Ten, and NCAA regional and national competitions, as well as helping to develop both cross country and track and field facilities at both Ball State and Indiana University.
VU Co- Intermin Head Track and Field Coach Tim Marsee has garnered several NJCAA Assistant Coach of the Year awards over the past several indoor and outdoor track & field seasons. Marsee was named the USTFCCCA’s Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year just before the 2017 NJCAA Outdoor National Championships. Marsee would coach athletes: Jordan Downs, and Aintzane Casterlenas Martinez to win NJCAA Outdoor National Titles in the Pole Vault, and would coach Richard Griffith to a runner-up finish, as well as Merica Valdez to a 3rd place finish in the event. Marsee also coached Jamesha Western to an NJCAA All-American finish in the hammer throw, making that 2 National Champions, and 3 All-Americans over the course of the meet.
Contact information for Coach Tim Marsee is firstname.lastname@example.org
Beyond VU Track & Field's mission to give each student-athlete opportunities to excel against top four-year programs as well as the top two-year teams throughout the country, Trailblazer student-athletes also receive guidance to complete their VU degree and transfer to successful four-year institutions. The following are a few of the colleges and universities that VU Track & Field and Cross Country student-athletes have gone on to: Indiana, Purdue, Indiana State, Ball State, Fresno State, Kansas, Louisiana Tech, Western Kentucky, Alabama, Middle Tennessee State, Western Michigan, Tennessee, Florida, Louisville, Louisiana State, Southern Indiana, Illinois, Greenville, Murray State, Arkansas State, Huntington College, Indianapolis, Anderson, Manchester, St. Thomas (FL) and Kentucky.