Stepping up to the challenge:
Tina Peters excels in the classroom and on the track

Halfway through her sophomore year, Tina Peters (Yellow Springs, Ohio) already owned three NAIA National Championships in three attempts – two indoor and one outdoor.

At the end of March, Tina competed in her first 20-kilometer event – the distance for Olympic competition. She finished 14th, just minutes off qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials.

It all may seem like a fairy tale: a young athlete in a relatively obscure sport, from a small Ohio town, has big dreams of competing at the international level. But go back 15 years and you will learn how a very young Tina and the Peters’ family were drawn to the sport they love.

Vince, Tina’s father (then a track and field coach at Yellow Springs High School), used race walking to turn an ailing young athlete into an All-American. When Vince became the race walking coach at nearby Cedarville University, Tina latched onto the sport, tagging along with her dad to practices and meets. “It’s as difficult, if not more, than running,” Peters said, explaining the sport’s two basic rules, “One foot must be touching the ground at all times and the leg that is touching the ground must stay straight until it’s directly under the walker.”

Tina was part of the junior Olympic program from age 7 until she turned 18. That meant taking part in USA track and field clinics, traveling to meets and constant coaching from her father.

So how does a top race walker end up at Goshen College, which had never fielded a competitor in the event before Peters? Realizing that NCAA institutions do not field race walking, Peters wanted an opportunity to compete in college, while pursuing a strong physics program.

In Peters’ junior year of high school, she was allowed to compete in a 3K event – the NAIA race distance – at Findlay (Ohio) University. At the meet was Goshen College assistant coach Doug Yoder, who was immediately impressed.

Doug and Rick Clark, head track and field coach, were enthusiastic about the idea of Peters attending Goshen.

It didn’t take Peters long to make a big impact. Her first collegiate meet brought her right back to Findlay, where she easily won the 3K race again and shattered the qualifying mark for NAIA Nationals by three minutes.

“Rick and Doug have been really supportive and flexible,” said Peters of her coaches’ willingness to allow her to travel and compete in non-collegiate events, such as the Millrose Games in 2007 and potential Olympic qualifiers.

That support has paid off for the coaches and the GC track and field program. At the 2007 NAIA Indoor National Championships, Peters and Petrana Petkova won a pair of national titles and propelled the Maple Leafs to a then program-record 11th-place finish.

Two months later, Peters took her first outdoor title as she walked to another national championship in Fresno, Calif. This time, Peters and her teammates finished eighth, which marked the first time Goshen had ever finished in the top 10 at any national event.

“My teammates are the best motivation for me,” said Peters. “It is impossible (to be successful) if you try and do it by yourself. Your teammates are there to cheer you on and help pick you up when you have a rough day.”

Rough days have been few and far between for Peters.

When she defended her indoor title in March, she became the first GC athlete to hold three national titles and helped the Leafs to a third straight top-20 finish at the national event. She earned her fourth NAIA All-American honor by placing third in the 3K race at the outdoor championships in May. And she still has two more years left to shatter records.

And off the track, Peters has also been making an impact in campus life, making the Dean’s List, singing in the Women’s World Music Choir and helping to lead the Catholic Student Association.