By: Katie Obear – Staff Writer
A well-qualified volunteer assistant coach has been helping out the Dayton women’s track & field team this season.
Well-qualified might actually be an understatement.
A U.S. Olympian heptathlete, Chantae McMillan, is in Dayton to both go through training herself and give some pointers to UD runners as she prepares for the 2016 Summer Olympic trials held in June.
The women’s heptathlon—a competition of seven events—consists of the 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m sprint, long jump, javelin throw and finally, the 800-meter distance run. The competition is usually held over two days.
“A typical day is I wake up, eat breakfast, and [I] usually like to focus on something for the day, if that’s reading a book, or reading my bible and making sure that I carry that throughout my day,” McMillan said in an interview with Flyer News. “It refocuses me on my ultimate goal.”
But for McMillan, this isn’t the first time that she has had the chance to make her mark on the track.
McMillan attended the University of Nebraska, where she was a runner-up in the 2011 NCAA Indoor pentathlon competition with a total score of 4,398 points.
She went on to compete in the heptathlon at the USA Championships at the 2012 Olympic trials, placing third with a total score of 6,188 points, good enough to qualify for the London Olympics. At the trials, she set personal bests in five of the seven events she competed in.
“I was very thankful to be at the 2012 Olympics,” McMillan said. “It gave me a heads up of what I was going to be training for the next four years for 2016, and believe it’s prepared me in multiple ways.”
“I will be ready mostly off the track for what is going to come my way as an Olympic athlete, so I won’t have to be distracted by those things this time around, I know to just do what I have to do and that is on the track, make sure my seven events are where they need to be by trials so that I can make the team and go get a medal in August.”
Prior to the Olympics in London, McMillan tore her tendon in her left knee, forcing her to take some time to heal and rest before she was able to secure a bid officially to the Olympics.
Now, McMillan is taking some time during her training to help some athletes on the women’s track and field team here at UD.
“I think it is a great opportunity for me to run beside these girls at practice and let them know that their technique needs to get to this step and [be like] this,” McMillan said. “I can be there and show her what it’s supposed to look like instead of telling her what it’s supposed to look like.”
McMillan has also had the opportunity to train here at UD with her coach in preparation for the trials.
The Rolla, Missouri native knows the amount of work and dedication it takes to get to the Olympics and hopes that by helping the team, they will be able to learn from her.
“I would say from my own perspective, enjoying the process,” McMillan said of her message to the team. “You should be fully aware of your goals, but you should be fully aware of your small goals daily that are going to help you get to that main goal. Living in the moment, making sure that you have done everything you are supposed within the day that you have, the moment you have right now and that’s going to ultimately get you where you need to be.”
McMillan decided to take the opportunity of working with Flyers at the start of the outdoor season.
“I had no idea who was on the team, I just saw an opportunity to influence a younger generation,” she said. “I like helping younger track athletes reach their full potential if they are willing to work hard and learn from someone who wants to help them.”
Having McMillan working with the team provides the upper edge for the women to work with someone who has competed at a higher level.
“How many Division I athletes are able to say, ‘Oh yeah, I can ask an Olympian anytime I have a question about my training?’” sophomore distance runner Grace McDonald said.
“It’s great that our student-athletes get to rub elbows with someone who has had success, who can be a role model,” interim head coach Sarah Haveman said. “Whenever you have somebody that is outside the coaching staff that can reiterate and have fun with what our sport is, that is always a plus.”
The Flyers have had some injuries on the team this season, but according to McDonald, that hasn’t stopped them from trying to reach their goals.
“We have had a lot of hardship on the team,” McDonald said. “It’s made us stronger and allowed us to grow together and be able to work as a team and compete at a higher level as a team, and not just individually.”
The team recently finished in fifth place this past weekend at the Beynon Sports Catamount Classic, and two new top-five school records were set. Senior Jordan Hoffman earned the second-best 100m hurdle time in school history (14.40). Also, sophomore Sarah Sepanski has especially seemed to take McMillan’s training to heart, as Sepanski set a school record in the heptathlon, McMillan’s event, with a total point score of 4,656.
The team will next attend the Illinois Twilight meet on April 23 on the campus of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.