2020 SPRING SENIORS: Men's Track & Field

(photos by Scott Eyre)
(photos by Scott Eyre)

With the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the spring sports season, the seniors of EMU's spring sports teams missed out on their Senior Recognition Day. These young men and women deserve to be honored and celebrated for their years of learning and growing as a Royals student-athlete.

EMU Athletics is running this special series as a way to recognize them, allowing each senior to speak for themselves as well as their coach to share about them.

The seventh article in our series celebrates the men's track and field team and their seniors, Jamel Howard, Collin Longenecker and Justin Odom.

All three men have been consistent members of the ODAC All-Academic Team during their four years and have competed at various ODAC Championships. Howard was the ODAC Champion in the Outdoor High Jump in 2017 while receiving All-Region accolades multiple seasons.

Jamel Howard

~ Leesburg, Va./Tuscarora

What is your favorite memory of being a Royal?

My favorite memory of being a royal is going to the ODAC tournament with the basketball team. We all got closer during that time and we played two very exciting games.

What is something you have learned about yourself while at EMU?

I learned that while being a basketball player, but also a track and field jumper, I can take on any tasks. It also helped me realize how competitive I was and how much competing for something really means to me and people around me. I also learned that I can build relationships with people I never thought I would.

What are your future plans?

I plan on interning at a graphic design company. After that I someday want get my master's in sports management and get into sports marketing.

Coach Bob Hepler says:

Jamel and I drove up to Ohio last May to try to qualify for Nationals in the high jump and long jump.  He just barely missed it.  But I loved getting to know him.  He's incredibly gifted athletically and he's a great guy.

 

Collin Longenecker 

~ Harrisonburg, Va./Turner Ashby

What is your favorite memory of being a Royal?

One of my favorite times in competition was actually back during my freshman year outdoor season (which ended up being my only outdoor season) and it was the first meet at Washington and Lee. Coach (Isaac) Bryan put most of the team in the 5k, and was going to try to pace a few of us to break 17 for the first time (my previous PR from high school was just under 17:30). He ended up pacing us for the first two miles of the race and then I just felt really good and ran a crazy fast last mile and ended up finishing in around 16:25, a minute faster than my previous PR. Having my coach pace me in a race like that was just such a special experience, and it is still one of the most enjoyable races that I have ever done.

And then also my senior Cross Country season as a whole. There was a lot of coaching uncertainty during the middle two years of my collegiate running experience and this year it was awesome to feel Coach Bob getting his feet under him in building the program he wants with bringing in a bunch of underclassmen that contributed a ton to our team athletically and relationally. I was honored to be in a position of leadership on the team this year and to be a part of this foundation. It helped that I ran very fast at ODAC, on a course that I ran every year back in high school. Special way to end.

What is something you have learned about yourself while at EMU?

I have learned what it means to love running for the sake of running. As kids a lot of us are into two or more sports and once you get to middle school and high school you have to choose one. My choice ended up being running because that is what I was best at, and had the prospect of seeing the most success and it is easy to get caught up in that success. I have been very humbled in college, having the experience of recovering from a major injury and making it back to being competitive and fast again. Helped me to realize that the joy I have found in running is not dependent on success. I love it because I love being outside, constantly pushing myself to be better, setting goals, accomplishing goals, and because I love sharing my joy for running with others who give in and join me sometimes. This is a gift that will give as long as I am physically able to run and I will forever cherish my time running at EMU.

What are your future plans?

I was actually planning on running my first marathon at the end of march. With outdoor I was planning on going to a meet in march to pace people in the 10k, and then potentially recovering from my marathon quickly to race the 10k at ODAC. The future is very uncertain in a lot of areas but one thing I do know is that I am going to run a marathon or two in the next year and I hope to qualify for Boston in one of those. To hopefully run Boston in 2022. For now, I am getting out most days as an excuse to get outside and just because I love running and it keeps me sane during this crazy time. Hopefully I can come back and run with the team a bit next year too, but I do not plan to compete.

Coach Bob Hepler says:

From the calamity of major Achilles surgery two years ago to running an 8k in 26 minutes this year, Collin is truly a medical miracle!  He's also an amazing student with a generous heart.

Justin Odom 

~ Williamsburg, Va./Menchville

What is your favorite memory of being a Royal?

My favorite memory of being a Royal was going to battle with my teammates every day. Every lap, every weight lifted, every muscle stretched, and every injury recovered. I am happy to have experienced it with a great group of people. I would not have achieved anything without the team's comradery.

What is something you have learned about yourself while at EMU?

I learned that I liked to throw really heavy implements, really far. The feeling of all the strength in your body exploding out of your fingertips can not be replicated in the process of yelling ODAC at practice. I like to inspire, and I loved to compete.

What are your future plans?

I am planning to find a way to finish the eligibility of my track career. If that is not able to happen, I will most likely get a job in Washington D.C., working in politics. I will be switching teams. I look forward to seeing where I will go in life and about the possibilities of life without track.

Coach Bob Hepler says:

Justin is the heart and soul of EMU Track & Field.  He cheers for and cares for all his teammates.  He's also one of the strongest people in the universe.