Breaking a nearly 20-year-old school record is quite impressive, but recording it in your first official race in the event, in your first year in the sport, is an absolute marvel. That’s one of the first telltale signs that JMU freshman sprinter Anoush Stamm is special.
“It was so exciting watching Anoush’s race,” senior sprinter Kelly Oler said. “I was there screaming for her and gave her a big hug afterwards. It’s just so cool to see her be so successful in her first race of the season and I’m just so proud of her putting in work already in January.”
On Jan. 26, the Dukes’ indoor track and field team competed in the Liberty Kick-off indoor meet in Lynchburg, Virginia. In her first 500 m race for the Dukes, Stamm posted an impressive time of 1:13.80 — beating the previous school record of 1:14.45 held by Shontya’ Bready since 2000. This feat is even more distinctive considering it was done by a girl from Louisiana who wanted to play basketball her whole life and has only just picked up her sprinters’ cleats.
“I had played basketball for 12 years and I wanted to go to college to play basketball but I had never done track,” Stamm said. “At the end of my senior year when I wasn’t getting offered any Division I scholarships for basketball, I was very heartbroken.”
A conversation with her mother prompted the multifaceted athlete to ditch the hardwood and hit the rubber.
“She thought that I was missing out on an opportunity,” Stamm said. “She thought that that was the sport I should have been in all my life … She said, ‘Do track. You can quit after two weeks.’ I said, ‘Well the problem is I’m not a quitter so I’ll just have to do it, if it really makes you happy I’ll run track for you mom.’”
In short time, it already appears as if Stamm made the correct decision. With years to grow and improve upon her fast start, director of track and field Ta’ Frias is ready for her to take on bigger challenges.
“It’s very exciting for her to kind of go through this,” Frias said. “It’s her first indoor season ever, it’s her first full year of training in track and field ever, so there are a lot of firsts for Anoush and it’s just kind of exciting for it to be her first record ever.”
By setting the bar so high, Stamm has instantly made a big impact on the JMU team and shown her potential as a runner. Frias and the Dukes won’t just settle with breaking records or first-place finishes, but have much higher aspirations than that. They also carry the motivation of simply getting better day in and day out.
“My hope is that we go on and start winning championships, bringing home championships, qualifying for postseason, getting into the NCAA Championship,” Frias said. “Keep working hard so that we’re there at those meets and more importantly when we’re at the conference championship is that we’re getting points, we’re getting first place hopefully we’re breaking more records but more importantly that we go out there and put our best foot forward.”
Stamm is added into the mix of an already competitive team that looks to be better each and every day. Frias knows these high aspirations can’t be achieved overnight and will take hard work, but she wants to see her team getting better and moving closer to its goals.
“I really want to see their improvement, I want to see the things that we can’t always coach,” Frias said. “That’s the aggression, that’s the desire to compete, the desire to win at all costs. I get very happy when they go out and just give me the best effort that they have. It always helps when it’s a record or helps when it’s a first-place finish, but for the most part if we go out there, if we’re improving, if we’re learning I can never be mad at that.”
The record-breaking performance adds in to some of the team’s successes. The Dukes are showing signs that this work is starting to pay off as they get closer to realizing their potential and achieving their goals. Their individual success also motivates and pushes others in practice, as the Dukes both race against the clock and their fellow teammates.
“I think we’re all pretty competitive with each other at practice,” Oler said. “Just seeing that transition to meets is exciting for us.”
Stamm’s short-term success has almost overshadowed the fact that she’s still so new to the sport. With still so much to learn and improve on, the potential is high for Stamm, who already has her sights set on another record and new goal.
“With track you can always strive for a faster time,” Stamm said. “I would also love to strive to break my PR in the 400 and possibly break the school record for that, that would be amazing. Just to keep growing and learning in the sport because it is still so new to me and I am still learning so much. I thought I knew how to run and then I came here and coach Frias taught me how to run … There’s so much to learn, track is so much more than just running and I’m learning stuff every day.”
Contact Grayson Heflin at email@example.com. For more track and field coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.