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Higher, faster, farther

photo by Bill Dilillo



Work Hard, Throw Far
by Jon Reidel

Judy and Mike Kostiew met and fell in love at Salem (N.H.) High School in the early 1970s. Judy was an all-state clarinet player and singer, while Mike excelled in football and track and field. That the latter would one day be a family affair was clinched when Judy took up the sport to spend more time with her future husband, who was one of the Granite State’s top weight throwers and decathlon champion.

Mike drew interest from the University of Connecticut and Colby College, but he decided to start a career as a carpenter and continue working for a mason hauling cinder blocks — a source of his strength as a weight thrower. The high school sweethearts eventually married and had four children. And just like their parents, the Kostiew kids excelled in school. The second youngest, Matthew, was a state champion javelin thrower. His younger sister Katie took home state titles in the shot put and the discus and starred in basketball.

And then there was Kristal, a hard working perfectionist much like her father, known for his high quality carpentry and willingness to put in the hours to get a job done right. In addition to being an A student, Kristal was a great athlete. With her father as her coach, she set every throwing record at Coe-Brown Northwood Academy, including a state record in the discus to go along with New England championships in the discus and javelin. “She has her father’s strength and that good Ukranian blood,” her mom says.

When high school graduation rolled around, it was never a question of if Kristal would attend college, but where. She chose UVM for its family-like atmosphere and weight throwing tradition established by then head coach Ed Kusiak, who recruited Kostiew and had a reputation for developing national caliber weight throwers during his 35-year tenure. It was a proud day for her parents and a measure of redemption. “We were young and dumb when we graduated,” Judy says. “Mike should have gone to college. I think that’s why we pushed our kids to do well, so they would go to college.”

Rewriting the records
Kostiew, a new UVM graduate who earned a 3.54 GPA, is a 14-time America East champion; two-time New England champion in the hammer and weight throw; and school record holder indoors in the shot put and 20-pound weight throw; and outdoors in the shot put and hammer.

“I want to be the best I can be at everything I do — as a sister, a daughter, in school, at practice. I guess I got that from watching how hard my parents worked. They’ve always put their heart and soul into everything they do. They never said anything to me directly about working hard, I just saw them do it for 18 years.”

To this day, her father works 50-plus hours a week at his carpentry company and coaches track and field. Judy wakes up at 3:30 a.m. to go to her full-time job in customer service at the Concord Monitor. She also works 20-25 hours a week as a Census field rep and another 15 hours cleaning the local church, where five-year-old Kristal used to tag along and lend a hand by emptying the trash.

Olympic dreams
UVM track and field coach Matt Belfield, who coached a national champion hammer thrower while at the University of Redlands, thinks Kostiew can succeed in the sport beyond college. He recently took her to meet American hammer throw record holder Anna Norgren Mahon ’96 in Connecticut, where she’s a high school English teacher and in training for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials. Kostiew broke Norgren Mahon’s UVM records and also plans to be a teacher in physical education.

“Kristal is a wonderful athlete with a bright future,” Norgren Mahon says. “She has a real instinctive nature with the throws. The commitments do take sacrifices, but Kristal strikes me as someone who has the personal discipline to be successful.”

Belfield also believes Kostiew has the talent and drive to compete on a similar level as Norgren Mahon, who is currently working out at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in San Diego. “It was a good opportunity for Kristal to see her train,” Belfield says. “From a physical standpoint, Kristal has quick feet and the core strength to do well. She also has a real love for training. I would never sell Kristal short of being at Anna’s level in five years.”

For her part, Kostiew feels she still has room for improvement, especially after she starts focusing on the hammer. “I’m only four years old in this event, a baby in the hammer. I’d like to qualify in 2004, but 2008 or even 2012 is more realistic. I’m willing to do what it takes.”

And it has taken a lot to reach the academic heights and athletic lengths she has achieved as an undergraduate. “There are nights that I want to go to bed instead of studying after a long day,” says Kostiew, whose training sessions regularly run three hours. “But everything I’ve done here at UVM has been a choice. I could choose to be a mediocre athlete and student and hang out more with my friends. But
I wouldn’t change a thing. These were the best four years I could have imagined.”

Sports Shorts
No, Lance Armstrong isn’t a UVM guy. But he did share the podium with one. Kevin Bouchard-Hall ’04, far right, earned the “Best Young Rider” award at April’s Tour de Georgia, a race which was won by five-time Tour de France winner Armstrong. Bouchard-Hall was riding for the U-23 U.S. National Team in Georgia, but he wore the green-and-gold jersey of UVM Cycling for a number of outstanding performances this spring. The entire UVM team put together a great year, which included earning the season-long East Coast Collegiate Cycling Championship. Bouchard-Hall, a nutrition and food sciences major with a pre-med concentration, is racing this summer in Europe with the national team.

A three-time NCAA qualifier in women’s gymnastics, a former standout pitcher in baseball, one of the greatest softball hitters in school history and a key player on UVM’s undefeated women’s basketball teams of the early 1990s are among 10 former University of Vermont student-athletes who will be inducted into UVM’s Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday, October 2, 2004. This year’s 10 inductees include: former softball standout Sue Duke ’94; baseball pitcher Brady Frost ’93; top gymnast Heidi Allen Gregorski ’94; track and field standout Drew Hirschfeld ’89; runners and Nordic skiing twins Trond and Knut Nystad ’94; women’s soccer star Shelley Addison Smith ’93; women’s basketball all-time great Sheri Turnbull ’94; standout swimmer Kevin Sullivan ’82; and men’s basketball standout Earl Steinman ’55. Tickets to the dinner may be purchased through the UVM Athletic Ticket Office at 656-4410.

A boost in scholarship support for student-athletes is central to a new strategic plan and realignment within UVM’s Athletics Department. Scholarship support, previously at 82 scholarships totaling $2.4 million for primarily eight sports, will increase to 124 scholarships totaling $3.7 million for 20 sports over five years under the plan. The plan also seeks to strengthen recreational sports opportunities, provide teams with operational assistance for recruiting and travel expenses, and to eliminate a tier system for allocating resources. “The goal with this plan is to create a culture of excellence, both in the classroom and on the field, that is conducive to student-athletes having an exceptional experience at the University of Vermont,” said Athletics Director Robert Corran. The realignment resulted in the reinstatement of men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, and the elimination of men’s and women’s tennis, men’s golf, and men’s swimming.

UVM baseball finished in fifth place in the conference standings, just short of a bid in the America East Baseball Championship, and posted a record of 18-26, 10-11 in America East. Third baseman Miguel Magrass was named America East Rookie of the Year, the first Catamount to receive the honor. Magrass achieved a school-record of 53 RBIs, tied the single-season mark of 18 doubles, and led the team with a .349 batting average.

Softball players Heidi Gebo, Kate Ramsey and Samantha Chase were named to the 2004 Division I All-Star Team of the New England Collegiate Softball Coaches Association.

Men’s basketball coach Tom Brennan threw the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park as part of the Vermont Day pre-game festivities on May 30. “We would like you to bring some of your good University of Vermont karma to Fenway,” said Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino in extending the offer to Brennan on the “Corm and the Coach” radio show. The event continued a longstanding association between UVM and the Red Sox. Two of UVM’s greatest athletes, Larry Gardner ’09 and Ray Collins ’09, went on to lengthy careers with the Red Sox and returned to the University as coaches and athletic directors.

For details on these stories and more: http://www.uvmathletics.com.