In May 2013, Tim VanLiew finished his stellar, collegiate track-and-field career as most can only dream – at the top. He brought two national titles home to New Jersey. Now, he wants to bring home the gold to America.
The former Rutgers–Camden student-athlete successfully defended his national javelin title – which he first earned in 2012 – with a record-breaking 75.55 meters at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships in La Crosse, Wis. For an encore, the lifelong Deptford resident placed ninth one month later at the USA Track and Field (USATF) National Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. VanLiew’s strong showing catapulted him to number 10 among all javelin throwers, collegiate and professional, in the country.
But before the dust could even settle, VanLiew immediately turned his attention to higher pursuits. He is now training to fulfill his dream of reaching and competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He will test his mettle over the next few years in a series of collegiate and elite-level meets, with the goal of repeat qualifying for the USATF National Championships. During the process, he aspires to meet the qualification standard for international meets, such as the Pan American Games, the 2015 World Championships, and 2016 Olympic Games.
“For anyone in the sport, the ultimate dream is to compete in the Olympics,” says VanLiew, who graduated from Rutgers–Camden in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. “It will take a lot of time, energy, and effort. I plan on gaining as much experience as possible by focusing on the physical and mental elements of my training, traveling to high-profile meets to compete against elite javelin throwers, and learning as much as possible through the course of my journey.”
VanLiew plans to stay focused on his goal just as he’s always done – one step and throw at a time. As he sees it, his success has always depended as much on challenging himself as challenging his competitors. “My goal in mind every time I step onto the runway is to nail the approach and hit every point that I need for a good throw,” explains VanLiew. “I am going to continue to take it day by day, stay healthy and keep my dream alive. I am prepared to do everything that I can from now until 2016 to compete for the trials and qualify for the Olympics.”
VanLiew also hopes to round out his intensive schedule by working with student-athletes at his alma maters, Rutgers–Camden and Deptford High School. He credits his studies in sports psychology for helping to instill a mental edge that will continue to serve him well as both a player and coach. “I ultimately see coaching as my career path, so I hope to pass along everything I’ve learned to anyone who I have the opportunity to coach,” says VanLiew, who served as the goalkeeper coach for Rutgers–Camden’s record-setting men’s soccer team the past two seasons.
Looking back on all of his success now, it’s amazing to think that VanLiew almost never discovered his formidable track-and-field talent. He recalls that, as a high school senior, he had initially committed to Rutgers–Camden as a goalkeeper for the men’s soccer team. At his varsity soccer coach’s urging, he took up track and field in order to stay in shape for his freshman season.
Admittedly, his first attempts at throwing a javelin showed no signs of the champion that he would become. Without any proper technique, he relied on his natural arm strength and overall athleticism. However, as the weeks wore on, VanLiew slowly learned to put together different parts of the process, such as his body position, footwork, and arm speed. Soon he was clicking on all cylinders.
VanLiew would succeed in winning the javelin at the Gloucester County and Tri-County Conference Royal Division championships. He subsequently finished second in the javelin at the Group III sectionals, and finished the season ranked ninth in the state. He earned First Team Tri-County Royal Division, as well as First Team All-Area honors in the javelin from the Gloucester County Times.
At Rutgers–Camden, VanLiew would become arguably the greatest two-sport athlete in the university’s history. His second national title earned him his third consecutive All-America recognition in the sport, becoming the first athlete in Rutgers–Camden history to earn three All-America honors in one sport and the first to capture four All-America honors overall.
From 2008 to 2011, VanLiew started every game in net for the men’s soccer team, setting the program career mark with 89 games played. In 2011, he led Rutgers–Camden to its first New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship, first three NCAA tournament wins, and first Elite Eight berth. A two-time NJAC Goalkeeper of the Year, he was named NJAC Male Athlete of the Year as well as Rutgers–Camden Athlete of the Year for the 2011-2012 scholastic year. He was also named a 2011 D3Soccer.com Third Team All-American.
VanLiew excelled off the field as well. He was a three-time U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic performer, the 2012 USTFCCCA Scholar Athlete of the Year, and the 2013 USTFCCCA National Field Athlete of the Year. He was also named to multiple Philadelphia Inquirer All-Area Academic Teams, as well as to the Capital One Academic All-America Third Team, in both track and soccer.