Most people would think it strange if they heard of a "Field and Track Team."
"You've got it backwards," they might respond. However, in the case of fourth-year Valerie Anderson "Field and Track Team" sounds just right.
Val is an eight-time UAA Athlete of the Week, three-time national qualifier, four-time conference champion, school record holder, conference record holder, and an All-American. "She basically re-wrote our records here. She's on every honor roll that we have. She was breaking conference records even as a junior," head coach Chris Hall said.
Her performance has been an inspiration to other athletes, even beyond the throwing team. "Val was the only girl on the team last year to qualify for Nationals," reflected second-year middle-distance runner Jessica Winter. "We said, next year maybe some of the rest of us should try and do that.'" And they did. This year, three women made it to the NCAA National Championship meet, including Anderson in the indoor season. She finished seventh in the 20-pound weight throw with a distance of 10.61 meters, earning her All-American recognition.
Val's influence extends beyond leading by example. "She's like an older, mini coach to us," said Stephanie Lewis, a second-year thrower. "Val is a great source of entertainment at practice. She's laid back but focused. It's a happy medium."
That happy medium of hard work and good humor has helped Val to accomplish amazing feats in her four years here at Chicago. Val will be graduating this year with an honors bachelor's degree in geophysical sciences and environmental studies. This year, she was the recipient of the Gertrude Dudley Medal, an award given by the Women's Athletic Association to the outstanding senior athlete for leadership and skill in women's athletics. During her first year, she participated in an ROTC program at the University of Illinois-Chicago. In order to participate in that program, she had to borrow a friend's car to drive there four times a week for practice and classes, all while a full-time student-athlete in the College.
Still, Val is a fun-loving gal. Her interest in geophysical studies has allowed her to go on school-sponsored field trips to places like the Bahamas, Iceland and Montana. "Those trips were so much fun," Anderson said.
She also enjoys just spending time with friends and teammates. "I've really tried to keep the spirit alive on the throwers' team," Anderson said. She has bonded with her teammates by sharing advice on classes and other aspects of life as well as throwing dinner parties at her apartment. Anderson will be continuing her studies next year at the University of Indiana in Bloomington. She plans to get her Ph.D. and possibly research and teach, stressing that "if you're going to make any environmental impact it has to first be in education."