University of Richmond senior runner Brooke Fazio competed at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field National Championships on March 20.
She qualified for Indoor Nationals last year, as well, earning All-America honors before the championship meet was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fazio said the opportunity to come back to the NCAA Championship has motivated her over the past year.
“Returning to this meet has been something that has pushed my training over quarantine and over winter break,” Fazio said. “Getting the chance to come back and actually compete this time means a lot.”
Fazio ran an 800-meter time of 2:07.62 in her preliminary heat on Saturday, which did not qualify her for the final heat.
Women’s track and field associate head coach Jon Molz emphasized how difficult it is to qualify for an NCAA National meet.
“Qualifying for this meet is one of the hardest things to do in any NCAA sport,” Molz said. “You don’t get to race your way in terms of going through prelims or semifinals. You just have to be one of the top-16 fastest, which means Brooke from Richmond has to run the same time as it takes for somebody from [University of] Oregon or somebody from [University of] Arkansas, and their opportunities might be different from our opportunities.”
Fazio qualified for Nationals after running a season best 2:05.70 for first place at the Mason Winter Track Fiesta in late February. It was her fourth time earning an invite to a National Championship meet in four years.
Molz said Fazio’s consistent achievement over her Richmond career has been impressive.
“Now that it’s her fourth time qualifying for the national meet and her second time indoors, she has to believe now that she belongs there,” Molz said. “You don’t get lucky in this sport and just wind up as one of the top 16 people in the country. You’re there because you belong there and because you earned it.”
Fazio and her teammates faced daily challenges during a COVID-impacted season, most of all the sudden lack of available meets and races for athletes to improve their times.
Fazio spoke about the pressure of finding and capitalizing on chances to race.
“One of our bigger challenges this season was finding opportunities to compete and then again using those opportunities to the best of our ability when we did have them,” Fazio said. “Our coaches have really been pushing and fighting for us to have these equal opportunities in track to compete.”
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When the A-10 cancelled their Indoor Track and Field Championships in November, the team knew they would need to find opportunities to run elsewhere in the schedule, head coach Lori Taylor said.
“The biggest blow was before we even went home for Thanksgiving when we learned that there wasn’t going to be any Indoor A-10 Championships,” Taylor said. “That’s a huge direction and goal for our program and opportunity for our athletes.”
Meanwhile, pandemic restraints forced the men’s and women’s cross country seasons to play out this winter at the same time as indoor track. The men’s and women’s cross country teams both raced at the A-10 Championships on March 5 in Richmond, with the men taking home the team title and the women finishing 7th. Taylor praised the commitment of her athletes to take precautions to not get the COVID-19 virus during the winter and not jeopardize the season.
“I’m just so proud of how our team has handled this very uncertain, difficult time in the last year,” Taylor said. “That just shows the strength of anyone is how you respond to that, whether it’s as a person, an athlete, or a team.”
Athletes from all teams now look forward to the outdoor track and field season, which kicks off this spring. With spring sports slowly kicking into action all over campus in the month of March, Fazio and her teammates will still have to fight for chances to drop a fast time.
“We’re still hoping and trying to get our home meet, the Fred Hardy home meet, that we have every year,” Fazio said. “It’s our only home meet, so that’s one meet we’ve been pushing to get set up.”
For now, Fazio is eager to start racing again.
“I’m excited to get on an outdoor track and get to run fast,” Fazio said.
Contact sports writer Gedd Constable at email@example.com.
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