LOS ANGELES — The Atascadero Greyhounds track and field team has produced several fantastic female throwers over the past few years that are now entering the prime of their college careers and are tearing up their respective divisions. Sabrina Van Beek is the latest girl in that line to make a name for herself as the Whittier Poet sophomore placed second in the discus, fourth in the shot put and sixth in the hammer in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Van Beek graduated from Atascadero in 2017 as the PAC 8 league champion in the discus and runner-up in the shot put before committing to Whittier College and coach Robert Neely.
Van Beek performed her best this season when she needed it most by heaving a 10-foot personal record in the SCIAC finals after being one of the last two girls to qualify in the previous round.
“I was just on top of it, it was crazy,” Van Beek said. “In prelims, I was the second to last person to qualify for finals and then when we get into finals with our final three throws it just all of a sudden clicked and I jumped all the way up to silver.”
Coming into the SCIAC meet the former Greyhounds PR was 122 feet but her second-place toss sailed 132-10 jumping her all the way into second place after not making the finals in her freshman year.
“To go from last year barely making finals and not making the podium all the way to getting the silver medal this year was amazing,” she said. “I don’t think I stopped smiling the rest of the day.”
While Van Beek’s best event is unquestionably the discus it is her versatility and leadership that makes her so important to the Poet team. The sophomore not only placed second in the discus, but she also placed in the top six in all three of her throwing events including the hammer which she only learned to throw a year ago.
“She is a leader,” Neely said. “She had a crew of really young throwers practicing with her this year, there was one senior and the rest were freshmen. Even though she was just a second year she led that group both verbally and by example and I think she helped our other female throwers on the team have a more productive year just by being there.”
Neely is also an Atascadero alum and just finished his third season as the Poet coach. This season the Poets finished in fifth place for both their women’s and men’s team which is the highest both have finished in recent memory. In fact, the women’s team scored more points than any Whittier team since 2013.
A big part of a track team’s success comes from either their depth or their versatility and Van Beek’s ability to score points in three different events makes her incredibly valuable and important to the team.
While the discus is her best event, the hammer is her favorite. Athletes in California are not allowed to throw the hammer in high school which means the former Greyhound had to start from nothing a year ago.
“It was one of the things I was actually looking forward to the most because it looked so exciting and it very quickly became my favorite event to throw,” Van Beek said. “Even though it might not be my most competitive event it’s absolutely the most fun to compete with. I like how chaotic it is. You have to go really, really fast and it just feels like absolute controlled chaos, like you are in the middle of a tornado but you’re in control of it and that is just a crazy feeling.”
Van Beek is the first of a pipeline of Greyhounds that will be heading south as her younger sister Joanina and sprinter Talia Johnson have both committed to the Poets for next year.
She has also excelled academically while at Whittier earning the honor of scholar-athlete her freshman year and actually changed her major from kinesiology to political science after falling in love with a US foreign policy class.
Next year Van Beek will begin her school season abroad in England as she exercises one of my many perks of attending a smaller school that values their students and their experiences more than the revenue that their sports teams generate but says she will be on a strict practice routine the entire time as she prepares for track next spring.