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 .
Coach Blake Albrecht enters his first year as the Trailblazers Head Coach after spending the last year and a half as an assistant coach under Chris Gafner. This cross country season, Coach Albrecht led VU to a pair of Region XII Titles for the men and the women, 8 total All-Region XII Athletes, Individual Region XII Titles by Sophomore EvanFranklin, and Anais Da Silva, and led the team to the highest-ever NJCAA National Ranking at #5 in the country. Anais Da Silva also became the first Vincennes athlete to win the Little State Division at the Indiana Intercollegiate Championships, as well as the Greater Louisville Classic. The team's continued on to the NJCAA National Cross Country Championships, where Sophomore Evan Franklin finihsed 6th overall, earning All-American Honors, running the fastest time at the National Meet by a VU Athlete, and captured the highest finish by a VU male athlete at the National Meet in school History. Sophomore Anais Da Silva also finished 6th place, earning All-American Honors, and broke her own school-record in the process. Albrecht was named the Men's & Women's Region XII Coach of the year for the team's success this season, and was even named the Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year.
VU Assistant 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.
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.