Brett VanLeuven makes history for Point track and field

Published 11:16 am Thursday, May 30, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

For any historical achievement or record to be broken, someone has to be the first to do it. Brett VanLeuven set the standard for Point University’s track and field program when he became the program’s first male athlete to compete at the NAIA national championships. 

Point’s track and field program has been in a season of transition as Caleb Albrecht began his third season as the head coach. The program had struggled with participation and with getting athletes to the national stage. 

That all changed when VanLeuven qualified for nationals in the Race Walk competition. VanLeuven finished in 19th when the competition wrapped up on May 23, but VanLeuven competing at nationals meant everything to him and to the program. 

Email newsletter signup

“It was pretty awesome just knowing that I was able to contribute to the school because I feel like that’s something a lot of people chase,” VanLeuven said. “They want to have that impact, so me being able to start that tradition for the cross country and track team gives other people motivation.” 

VanLeuven is just a sophomore at Point University, but his college career has already been a winding road. VanLeuven originally came to the Skyhawks to compete in the 5 and 10K cross-country competitions. 

A spider bite left VanLeuven unable to continue competing in cross country during the 2022-23 season. VanLeuven wanted to continue contributing to his team, and he found out that competing in the race walk was a solid option. 

With just four weeks of training time before the conference championship, VanLeuven placed fourth. From that point, VanLeuven and the coaching staff realized that the race walk was his sport. VanLeuven began training harder and focusing in on the one sport and saw major improvements during the 2023-24 season. 

“My coaches, they were able to understand my sport more,” VanLeuven said. “We started it last year with four weeks of training, but once we kind of realized the potential, we were able to work at it harder and change the training schedule.” 

Transitioning to the race walk competition brought its own set of challenges. VanLeuven had to change his workout routine to focus more on his hamstring and calf muscles as compared to focusing on the quadricep muscles needed for cross country. 

VanLeuven spent every day at the track focusing on his form. Running cross country came naturally, but the funky form needed for race walk competitions took time to learn. 

“It’s a completely different muscle group that you’re using,” VanLeuven said. “It’s not a natural movement to lock your leg out, specifically locking your knee out, landing on it and pulling. I think another thing people don’t understand when they’re messing around trying to race me, they might beat me on the speed, but it’s the endurance. It’s a three-mile race. They can do it for 10 seconds, but can you do it for 26 minutes?” 

Patience and perseverance were required for VanLeuven because even when he improved upon his time, he found that he was not using proper form and would have been disqualified. 

VanLeuven faced adversity during the season because there were not very many opportunities for him to compete. Competitions got canceled and VanLeuven found himself disqualified due to his form in the final moments of one of his competitions. 

VanLeuven had just two opportunities to qualify for nationals, and he had to travel to South Carolina just to compete. VanLeuven slipped just within the qualifying time to compete at nationals. 

After a year of trial and error and form improvement, VanLeuven expects to make major leaps as a competitor next season. 

“I would really like to be an All-American, which would be top eight at nationals,” VanLeuven said. “I think that’s very doable and within reach considering I’ll have another full year of training. If not All-American, top ten would be awesome too.” 

Point’s track and field program is in need of growth, and VanLeuven hopes that he can facilitate that growth. 

“I think it’s really important,” VanLeuven said. “Luckily, last year we had enough recruits to have a full cross country team, but in the past few years, we’ve had to bring people from other sports to compete with us at the conference championships just to be able to compete… I think starting this trend of having national appearances, that’s a huge recruiting tactic we can use.”