VU’s Gafner among Hoosiers chosen as state’s bicentennial relay torchbearers - Athletics
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.
Track and Field
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 .
Head Track and Field Coach Chris Gafner
Chris Gafner is in his 15th year at Vincennes University and his 13th season as head coach of the VU Men's and Women's Track & Field and Cross Country Teams. He also coaches VU Cross Country student-athletes to compete in the NJCAA Half-Marathon Championship Meet each season.
Since Coach Gafner took over the Trailblazer programs, VU has had 27 national champions and 77 NJCAA All-Americans. In addition, VU has produced the NJCAA careers of five NJCAA national athletes of the year, three NJCAA national records and 196 national placers. Coach Gafner was the 2012 NJCAA Coach of the Year.
The Trailblazer men and women have turned in 22 top-10 team finishes and five top-5 team performances at indoor and outdoor national championship meets during Coach Gafner’s VU tenure.
In addition to athletic success, Coach Gafner’s cross country and track & field teams have won numerous academic awards. Both teams have finished in the top 3 nationally in team grade-point average on several occasions and have claimed numerous individual NJCAA and USTFCCCA Academic All-American awards.
Coach Gafner is level 2 certified by United States Track & Field in the jumps, sprints, hurdles and relays.
Prior to VU, Coach Gafner was an assistant track & field and cross country coach at Lansing Community College in 2002 and 2003. He was the head track & field and cross country coach for the 2001 and 2002 seasons at Mt. Vernon Academy in Salt Lake City, UT.
A 2001 graduate of Siena Heights University, he also attended Lansing Community College. During his college career, Coach Gafner was a seven-time national qualifier in track and a member of two national champion cross country teams.
Coach Gafner is a devoted family man. He is married to his wife, Linzie and has three children: John, Emma and James.
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.
Contact information for Coach Tim Marsee is email@example.com
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.