SHELBY GRAY HERZOG
Two UMW track athletes, Reese Creadon and Rajai Walton, were recognized for their all-regional performance during the indoor season in the 60-meter hurdle races and high jump event, respectively. The U.S. Track & Field & Cross Country Coach Association announced the names of the athletes who ranked in the top five of all events in the 2023 NCAA Division III Track & Field season at the beginning of March.
“I’m actually very honored to have received this one,” said Walton, a senior business administration major. “I’ve received a lot of awards over the years, but this is my first time earning an award of that significance for high jump. I’m definitely going to cherish it.”
Both Creadon and Walton have dedicated themselves to their sport for many years, which has earned them awards, honors and positive reputations amongst teammates. The skills that each of these athletes possess have served not only as qualifiers but as inspiration and knowledge to their fellow teammates.
“Reese and Raj contribute to the team as leaders by focusing on the little details that lead to big improvements overall,” said fellow track member Jessica Oberlies, a sophomore environmental science and Spanish double major. “Reese is always encouraging to his teammates in the weight room, raising the team’s standards and expectations for one another. Raj has been a good leader and mentor for some of the younger athletes on the team by teaching them better form or techniques, especially for high jump.”
Creadon also admires all of the work Walton has put into the team and led his underclassmen teammates as a senior.
“I’ve always known him to be just an incredible athlete,” Creadon, a junior political science major, said of Walton.
Walton stumbled into the world of high jump unintentionally. Discovering the event as a middle schooler who had joined the track team for fun, it took a few years before he took to the event as he was quite apprehensive at first.
“I was kind of short at the time but I really enjoyed the aspect of jumping higher than other people,” he said. “I kinda took that and just used it to my advantage.”
This accidental discovery of his passion became a defining feature in Walton’s life; he plans to continue competing at least for the next two or three years, as he still has some eligibility left due to COVID. He is continually setting higher goals for himself and has his eyes set on the big stage.
“With that being said, I think I still have a chance of becoming a much bigger athlete,” Walton said. “If everything goes correctly, I can see myself at a future world trials competition or somewhere similar.”
But in the meantime, he is still focused on his final season ahead of him.
“In my remaining time I’d like to qualify for nationals,” said Walton. “Last year was the first year I missed it and it kind of sucked. Hopefully, I can get back out there and qualify by the end of this season. If so, I’ll try my best to win the competition or become an All American.”
As far-reaching as his goals may seem, the people he has surrounded himself with make them feel more attainable, Walton explained. The motivation from both his teammates and coaches has helped him improve and grow in many aspects, both on and off the track.
“I really feel like they’re the reason that I’ve had the success that I’ve had,” Walton said. “Without those key people in my life, there’s no way I would have been as focused or as driven as I am today.”
When asked about his teammate and fellow award winner, Walton reflected on watching Creadon grow and settle into the sport, finding his comfort zone.
“I think Reese is a great person and a great athlete,” said Walton. “So if I had to say anything else, I’d say I’m really looking forward to his future. I think it’ll be great and I look forward to watching.”
Despite excelling in different events, the two share the same drive for success and improvement in their sport.
“Track is a cool sport because there is not just one skill that makes you successful at it,” said Oberlies. “Depending on your event, you have to combine speed, with strength, with jumping ability as well. The two of them demonstrate what it means to be well-rounded in terms of ability to do well in multiple events.”
A passionate decathlon athlete, Creadon hopes to further his accomplishments not only throughout the remainder of his time in college but beyond his career as an Eagle as well. This is Creadon’s first collegiate athletic honor, yet awards were not on his mind when running his race—he was simply focused on the outcome of the race in front of him.
“It was not something I thought about until after,” said Reese. “I can’t become complacent just because I ran a good race.”
Creadon has always operated under that mindset as an athlete. Feeling as though there was a fire under him to keep pushing himself and winning throughout his high school career allowed him to remain very focused, he said.
Like Walton, he is intent on continuing to run and train for decathlons until around the age of 28 which, based on his own research, is around the time when male track athletes hit their peak.
As far as his next couple of years as a collegiate runner, he plans to fill his time perfecting and improving in the hurdles now that he has received this award, as well as bettering his skill sets in both indoor and outdoor track.
“Everything just has to come together, I know I am capable of doing that,” said Creadon.