by Danny Barnts, sports information director
The 2012 track & field season is almost here and many of the Western Oregon University student-athletes are training in preparation for the indoor and outdoor season. Senior hurdler Janna Vander Meulen is looking a couple of years ahead however, as she begins the first leg of her training for the 2013 Deaflympic Games in Budapest, Hungary.
Vander Meulen, who is currently majoring in exercise science, will represent the United States in the 100 meter and 400 meter hurdles, and may even be a member of a relay team. She was discovered by the United States of America Deaf Track & Field (USADTF) team based on her collegiate times of 14.82 in the 100m hurdles and 1:06.27 in the 400m hurdles.
The head coach of the USADTF team, Thomas Withrow, contacted Western Oregon's head coach Mike Johnson about Vander Meulen's interest level in joining the squad. Through Coach Johnson, Withrow was able to get in contact with Vander Meulen and offer her the opportunity to be a part of the USADTF team at the 2013 Games. Vander Meulen happily accepted the chance to both represent her country and continue competing on the track following her collegiate career.
"I never thought that I would have the chance to continue racing after college until the coach of the USA team contacted me," Vander Meulen explained. "We talked about the Deaflympics and the process leading up to the Deaflympic and what I need to do to prepare."
Vander Meulen will officially start training and competing with the USADTF this summer at the 2012 World Deaf Athletics Championships from July 15 to 21 in Toronto, Canada. After the completion of the 2012 NCAA Track & Field Championships, Vander Meulen will spend much of the rest of the summer training with the USA team. She will be looking to not only improve on-track performance but also to acclimate herself with many new teammates, whom Vander Meulen mentioned she is eager to meet.
Following training with the USADTF team and the World Championships this summer, Vander Meulen will return to Western Oregon University for one more year to complete her bachelor’s degree. She will also continue her training on the track with coach Johnson and Wolves' assistant Isaac Frederick as she works to keep her fitness level and improve her posture and form heading into the Olympic Games.
Despite the wonderful opportunity Vander Meulen has been given, she has also been forced to overcome a number of metaphorical hurdles to achieve her goal of competing in the 2013 games. First she was submitted to an audiogram, to determine that she is indeed deaf. All members of the team are required to take the audiogram test in which they must be at 55 decimals or more. This is because there are no hearing devices used during the games and the runners must get used to races being started with a series of lights.
The second challenge will be on the financial side. As the USA does not provide financial assistance to amateur athletes representing the country in international games, Vander Meulen and her family will be paying for the cost of the trip. This burden did not seem to detour the excitement of her or her family at all: "I know this will be a fantastic opportunity and my mom is very excited as well, so we are starting to save the money."
While Vander Meulen is aware of the opportunity to represent her country and see the world, she is currently focused on putting together the best track and field season she can for the Wolves. "My goal is to earn a personal record this season so I can try to beat that time when I am in the Deaflympics, especially in the 400m hurdles," she explained.
In the mean time as Vander Meulen continues to train in preparation to represent the red, white and blue of the United States, we can be happy to have her on the Western Oregon University campus sporting the red and white colors of the Wolves.