Story by Brad Cygan, Missouri Baptist Sports Information
ST. LOUIS – Missouri Baptist University has become known over the past few years as the preeminent college in the United States for Race Walk, an Olympic Track and Field sport. Sophomore Molly Josephs has continued in this path and has been named the 2013 Henry Laskau Award recipient, given annually to the top junior Race Walker in the United States.
Josephs, a native of Garden City, N.Y., came to Missouri Baptist in order to win an NAIA title and train under one of the top Race Walk coaches in the country, Tish Hanna. In her time at Missouri Baptist, Josephs is a two-time All-American in the sport, including a top-six finish at the 2013 Indoor National Championships (3000m) and a second place finish at the 2013 Outdoor National Championships (5000m).
Outside of the collegiate realm, Josephs was the top junior woman in the Pan Am Cup trials, but because of prior commitments in her collegiate schedule, was unable to race in Guatemala for the Pan Am cup.
In June of this year, Josephs became the United States Junior National Champion and finished second overall in the USA/Canada Dual meet in August. She was the first overall American to finish in that race as well.
“It is very exciting to get the award, which was my last year as a junior so my goal was to finish it off on a high note,” said Josephs.“It took a long time to put all the pieces together but because of my teammates I was able to do better than I thought I would.”
Though Josephs has become one of the top female Race Walkers to watch, just about two and a half years separated from the Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, her focus continues to be on more immediate goals.
“My focus right now is to work up to the 20km and have a solid first year as a senior-athlete,” said Josephs.“There are some really strong women in the US right now so my goal is to qualify for the Olympic trials in 2016 and do well in the NAIA.”
Coach Tish Hanna has been coaching Josephs since she arrived at Missouri Baptist and has high hopes for the sophomore.
“Obviously it is an honor to work with Molly,” said Hanna.“She is not only a great athlete but a tremendous student. I believe Molly is the perfect example of how the NAIA program can work. The majority of walkers that attend NCAA programs quit competing because this Olympic event is not in NCAA. Molly is able to maintain over a 3.5 (grade point average) while training at a very intense level, often two-three times a day.”
Now the goals for Josephs switch to a higher standard. In the sport, the 20K race is where she will place her focus, which will take additional training and focus.
“I will work with her personal coach ,two-time Olympian Tim Seaman,” said Hanna.“The transition to the 20k can be difficult, but Molly has shown she can handle the increase in mileage.”
The Laskau Award commemorates the achievements of three-time Olympian Henry Laskau who was the first modern day walker to achieve star status.
The Missouri Baptist University Department of Athletics supports 26 varsity athletics programs and seven junior varsity sports. The University is a proud member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and is an NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star Award winner. Spartan Athletics also encompasses several non-NAIA teams to its credit.