ATASCADERO — On Monday, in front of a gather of friends, family, coaches and teachers, Sabrina VanBeek committed to continue her athletic career at Whittier College.
Whittier College is a division three school that competes in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, informally known as the SCIAC. Once VanBeek arrives at Whittier College, she might notice a familiar, yet slightly different voice providing her with instruction. Robert Neely, an Atascadero alum, former track star, and current son of Atascadero High School principal Bill Neely, is currently the Head Track Coach at Whittier. Choosing a division three school in the SCIAC means that VanBeek is also committed to her education. The SCIAC is home to some of the smartest athletes the nation has to offer, with schools like Cal Tech, Cal Lutheran and Occidental, the conference boasts more Presidents and Pulitzer winners than it does professional sport stars.
At the beginning of this season, VanBeek was surely not on many college watch lists. She entered her senior season throwing the discus around the 80 foot mark, and ended the season throwing 109-06, at the division three finals. Her throw was long enough to finish in fifth place, but had she thrown near her personal best, she would have finished in the top three.
VanBeek dominated for the Greyhounds in the PAC-8 championships this season. She finished with the top overall mark and a first team all-league selection in the shot put, and finished second overall with a second team all-league selection in the discus.
VanBeek’s throwing coach, Darvell Cullors has been working with her for years in track and basketball and is excited to see her keep growing.
“Hard work,” Cullors said of what will make her such an asset at the college level. “She works really hard on what she does and the cool thing about her is that she will never complain no matter what you throw at her. I think she is going to blossom because I think she is just now growing into her body. Being what, 6’2” or 6’3” you know it’s pretty hard growing into that. Your brain is saying ‘go!’ but your legs are saying ‘what?’”
College track and field will provide her with ample time to improve on the shot put and discus, but will also introduce her to brand new events.
During her time Whittier VanBeek will get the opportunity to compete in the hammer toss, an event that looks every bit as medieval as it sounds. If you are unfamiliar with the hammer, it is essentially a heavy ball attached to a chain, that athletes try to throw as far as possible. Coach Cullors continued to rave about VanBeek, stating why he is so excited to watch her keep competing.
“Now things are starting to click and she is looking very athletic right now, and when you can focus on something 24/7 you are going to get way better at it,” he said. “In high school you are kind of into everything — she is into FFA, judging and now she will have time to slow down and focus on the shot, discuss, and hammer and all that good stuff. She is going to be killing.”
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