March 11, 2014
ATHENS, Ga. --- During Quintunya Chapman’s freshman and sophomore years of high school at the Bradwell Institute in Hinesville, Ga., the thought of competing collegiately in track and field was not even close to being on the three-sport athlete’s radar.
Now a junior on the University of Georgia’s fourth-ranked track team and heading to her first NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in just her first season competing in multi-events, it’s difficult to imagine anything other than track as Chapman’s top priority.
After totaling a career-best 4,043 points in the pentathlon and scoring for Georgia with an eighth-place finish at the SEC Championships on Feb. 27, Chapman earned the 16th and final qualifying spot into the NCAA Championships this weekend in Albuquerque, N.M. The mark saw her improve upon her previous total by nearly 400 points, in addition to moving into fifth place all-time in the school record books.
Entering the SEC meet, Chapman felt confident that surpassing the 4,000-point mark would almost certainly assure her a spot at the national meet, but the Hinesville native knew that a trip to Albuquerque was not guaranteed until the field was officially announced.
When Chapman finally found out via text message from Georgia’s USTFCCCA South Region Women’s Assistant Coach of the Year, Petros Kyprianou, that she had indeed earned a spot at the national meet, the first-year pentathlete felt previous feelings of anxiety and nervousness disappear, only to be replaced by a sense of accomplishment, joy and relief.
“At the end of SECs, I knew that I had made the 4,000-point mark, so automatically I thought I was going to NCAAs,” remarked Chapman. “Then we got back to Athens and everyone was saying that I had to wait for the other conferences to finish. I had no idea what was going to happen until Petros texted me saying that I made it! I called my mom automatically, and she told my sister and dad and the rest of my family. Everyone was calling and congratulating, and I was just so happy to have made it.”
A naturally gifted athlete who competed in volleyball, basketball and track and field for Bradwell, Chapman admits that volleyball was her favorite sport among the three and the one in which she most strongly desired an athletic scholarship to compete at the collegiate level. One of five siblings, Chapman grew up playing basketball in a competitive, athletic family before taking on volleyball as a freshman in high school.
“I’d been playing basketball since I was six, and that was my thing,” said Chapman. “When I started volleyball my freshman year of high school, I just loved it. I really wanted to get recruited for it – that was my sport. I was really focused on volleyball at that point, but when the letters started coming for track, my parents just told me, ‘A scholarship is a scholarship, and we have to pay for school…you’re really good at track.’ It was hard to just not pay attention to it.”
As Chapman began to turn her attention and focus increasingly towards track and field, the recruiting letters continued to pour in. The 2011 GHSA 5A long jump state champion needed to take just one official visit before knowing which university would offer the best fit, both athletically and academically.
“At first, I really didn’t want to run track in college because I loved volleyball and was so focused on that, but when I got recruited by Georgia, that’s when I really began to get excited about the possibility of track,” said Chapman. “I fell in love with Georgia on my official visit, and I knew that it could really be a great fit for me. Coming to Athens was the only visit that I took, and I knew afterwards that I was committing to Georgia.”
Despite competing in both the long jump and sprints during high school, Chapman spent her first two years in Athens primarily as a 200- and 400-meter runner. Competing in the multi-events had always been in the back of Chapman’s mind, particularly after Kyprianou first mentioned the possibility during her official recruiting visit, but the idea did not come to fruition until this season.
With a lean and muscular physique, Chapman certainly has the appearance of a multi-event competitor. But after adjusting to the rigorous training regimen of the multis athletes, Chapman now possesses the mental skills and experience necessary to accompany her physical talent.
“Oh yeah, I’ve loved it,” said Chapman when asked about transitioning from sprints to multis. “I could go on and on about Petros because he has changed me into a different person, both personally and as an athlete. He’s just very patient, and I think that’s the biggest thing. For someone like me who has never done the pentathlon or multis before, he has literally taught me five events just from August, and now I’m going to Nationals.”
Chapman posted personal-best marks in each of the five events comprising the pentathlon at the SEC meet, including shaving nearly three-hundredths of a second off of her 60-meter hurdle time with a mark of 8.65. During the shot put, Chapman notched a distance of 40 feet, 11 ½ inches to tied for second in the event, before following up with a jump of 19-1.25 in the long jump. This marked the first time she surpassed 19 feet in the event.
“I think that alone says a lot about Petros and how he can transform my mind from just becoming a 200 or 400 runner into now doing more events at a single meet in one day,” added Chapman. “I really just applaud him for the patience and his expertise in all of the events that he coaches. He is so awesome at just instilling confidence in us.”
Transitioning from the sprints to the multi events has seen Chapman add two field events to her repertoire – shot put and high jump – in addition to spending time refining technique in the 60-meter hurdles and the long jump.
“I think the shot put is my strongest event right now. When I threw the shot put that far at SECs, Petros really told me that I was picking up on how to throw the shot put. I’m finally understanding the technique. I joined Petros’ training program lifting heavy weight already, so I think that really helped me out in the shot put.”
Chapman is quick to attribute much of her success at the SEC Championships to Kyprianou’s strength training regimen, which began with the off-season conditioning program.
“Petros is really big on strength training, and it’s been super helpful for multi-events,” said Chapman. “I can just feel myself getting stronger, I can feel my endurance getting better and I can lift heavier weight more easily now. He’s so good with technique in the weight room, and everything just correlates together so well. I can feel the changes, and I just felt myself getting through the five events a lot more easily at SECs than at my first pentathlon in New Mexico.”
The fifth and final event of the pentathlon, the 800 meters, has proven to be the least of Chapman’s worries, as she’s been able to utilize her 200- and 400-meter training to help with arguably the most grueling event in the pentathlon.
“After doing four events, you get to the 800 and Petros has just instilled in all of the multi athletes that we have to have heart. We just need to run,” said Chapman. “At SECs, he gave me a goal time, and I was completely shocked with myself and how I did. That was my best 800 time ever. The 800 is not that bad, and when the time comes I know that I can’t get out of it, so I just put my mind to it to do it. Everyone in the competition is going through the same thing, too.”
Transitioning to multi-events has been increasingly smoother for Chapman with the company of teammates and fellow multis athletes Lucie Ondraschkova and Kendell Williams by her side. A senior out of the Czech Republic, Ondraschkova placed third at the SEC Championships while Williams, a freshman out of Marietta’s Kell High School, earned runner-up honors at the meet and set the American Junior record earlier this year.
“It’s been amazing having them – just amazing,” reiterated Chapman. “The chemistry between the three of us is awesome, and I always tell Lucie and Kendell that I wouldn’t be anywhere close to the progress that I’ve made if I wasn’t training with them. They continually motivate me and have patience with me when I’m not getting something in practice. I just absolutely love our whole group. It’s made my transition to multis so much easier than I thought it was going to be.”
As the trio prepares for the NCAA Championships this weekend in New Mexico, Chapman aims to improve her marks in each event while also having fun in the process. The pressure of achieving a specific point value is hardly on Chapman’s mind, but instead the high-energy and enthusiastic athlete wants to focus on each event individually and treat the meet like any other on the schedule.
“I just can’t believe that I’m going to NCAAs, and I don’t think I’ll really believe it until I’m actually there,” said Chapman. “My goals are to just try to improve some more – to go the extra inch in long jump or the extra inch in shot put – just little things like that. I don’t really have a set amount of points that I’m shooting for, but I really just want to PR in each of them … I want to treat it just like it’s any other meet.”
As much success as Chapman has enjoyed this season on the track, the easy-going, down-to-earth student-athlete has made sure to save room in her busy schedule to relax, study and enjoy being a resident of Athens. Chapman lists spending time with her best friend and roommate since freshman year, Taylor Hollingsworth, and supporting fellow Georgia student-athletes in their respective sporting events as two of her favorite activities during her free time.
An avid coffee drinker, Chapman admits no shame in enjoying the caffeinated beverage on a regular basis, and she notes that her free time is often spent with Hollingsworth in the downtown Athens Starbucks, simply relaxing and enjoying the latest brews that the coffee company has to offer.
“Coffee is so addicting!” said Chapman, smiling. “I’ve been getting lattes a lot lately, but I just tried Starbucks’ new vanilla macchiato this week. I thought it was awesome! That’s just my thing – going to Starbucks and hanging with Taylor. It can be something so simple and chill, and it’s perfect.”
With a friendly, easygoing demeanor and a dedicated work ethic, it comes as no surprise that the Georgia native has transitioned so smoothly from sprints to multi-events. Chapman will no doubt continue to blossom under Kyprianou’s tutelage, and the possibility of what she could continue to accomplish both this season and next seems excitingly endless.
“Making NCAAs in the pentathlon is definitely the most exciting point of my track career in college thus far, especially because it’s my first season in multi events,” said Chapman. “Petros always just reiterates the fact that we train hard, and we’re going to go into the meet and perform like we’ve trained. That mentality has really just helped me to do well, and this weekend I just want to go out and have fun. I just want to do my best.”