College athletics: Pfeiffer track and field recruiting Rowan County

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 6, 2023

By Mike London

MISENHEIMER — Pfeiffer University head track and field coach Bob Marchinko took 23 athletes — that’s counting both genders — to April’s USA South Outdoor Conference Championships.

Salisbury resident Marchinko expects to show up with 50 in black and gold next spring.

Marchinko’s program is expanding, more than doubling in size in one year.

Athletes are coming to Pfeiffer from as far as away as Georgia, but mostly the growth is due to recuiting local talent from Rowan, Cabarrus and Stanly counties.

Marchinko and assistant Dave Calvert successfully recruited more than 30 track and field athletes for the incoming freshman class.

“We needed to get our numbers up to have the depth to compete in our conference, and recruiting locally is a point of emphasis,” Marchinko said. “I coached for years at Catawba and it wasn’t hard to see the success that Coach (Jim) Gantt had with Catawba baseball by recruiting the local kids. Rowan County has a  rich tradition in track and field, and we’ve got eight Rowan athletes coming in this fall, with six different schools represented.”

Marchinko’s Rowan recruiting list includes AJ Huffman (Salisbury), Quintin Wilson (North Rowan), Devin Keene (South Rowan), Katelyn Lentz (West Rowan), Makayla and Hayley Borst (Carson) and Cameron and Carson Ritchie (East Rowan).

Tht Borsts and Ritchies are sets of twins.

Marchinko is also the head cross country coach at Pfeiffer. The Borsts are distance-running girls and likely will be able to help out in that sport as well as on the track.

Wilson is a top-notch hurdler. The Ritchies also project as hurdlers. Keene is a high jumper. Lentz’s best event is the 800 meters. Huffman is proficient in the 400 and 800.

Wilson won in the 110 and 300 hurdles in this year’s Robert Steele Rowan County Championships. Makayla Borst is the reigning county champ in cross country and she and her sister placed high in the 1600 and 3200 in the county track meet. Cameron Ritchie was runner-up to Wilson in both hurdling events in the county meet. Lentz placed third in the 800 in the county meet. Huffman was fourth in the 400. Keene was third in the high jump.

“My assistant and I were at local meets just about every week,” Marchinko said. “Some of these kids we’ve recruited are still new to track and field but they have a lot of upside. Keene has only been doing track for a year, but he can jump 6 feet and if we can help him get to 6-2 or 6-4, then he’s scoring in our meets. He’s all about track and field right now and you like seeing kids fall in love with the sport the way he has. Huffman only has been doing track two years. He’s one of those kids that (Salisbury coach) Romar Morris has gotten excited about the sport and we believe he’s got a lot of potential, especially in the 800. I also found out when we recruited him that he’s a neighbor. He lives around the corner from me.”

It’s no secret that college is costly, now more than ever. Pfeiffer is a private school. That means it’s relatively expensive.

A primary goal for Marchinko is to make school affordable for athletes. Pfeiffer competes at the Division III level so it can’t give athletic scholarships, but the school can provide a considerable amount of scholarship assistance based on academics.

“Parents are often surprised by how affordable a private D-III like Pfeiffer can be — with the academic scholarships, it can be less expensive than even a state school,” Marchinko said. “And local students also have that option of commuting. Some may want to stay on campus to get that full college experience, but for others, commuting can save a lot of money as far as room and board.”

Marchinko is an accomplished distance runner who excelled at the Division I level in college and has won marathons in his post-collegiate days.

He coached at Pfeiffer and at Carson where his son, Zachary, was an exceptional distance runner who went on to compete for the Charlotte 49ers. Zachary is now a teacher/coach at Carson.

Bob Marchinko assisted Catawba track and field recently for six seasons and loved doing it, but he returned to Pfeiffer to lead the cross country and track programs in the summer of 2022.

“Loved my time at Catawba,” Marchinko said. “But it was a part-time position at Catawba and it’s a full-time position at Pfeiffer. That’s allowed me to retire from teaching and just be a coach. I loved teaching, but that’s a lot to deal with when you’re teaching and coaching.”

One of Marchinko’s stars at Pfeiffer is former South Rowan and Catawba runner Madison Lowery. Last fall, she was the first Pfeiffer female runner to qualify for the Division III National Championships. She was a conference champion and regional runner-up in cross country. In track and field, she was conference runner-up outdoors in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter runs.

South Rowan graduate Trent Rivers keeps setting PRs and has contributed significantly to Pfeiffer cross country and track and field.

Another Rowan County product is thrower Elizabeth Jones, who graduated from North Hills Christian School. She went to Pfeiffer as a regular student, but has become a track standout after being talked into coming out for the team. She was a conference champion indoors and runner-up outdoors.

Marchinko’s expertise is in running events. Calvert’s background is in the jumps, hurdles and throws, so they make a good team.

Back in April, Pfeiffer’s men placed fifth out of seven teams in the USA South Championships. Pfeiffer had no throwers. They have six in the incoming class. Things could change dramatically.

In April, the women’s team placed fourth out of eight competing teams.

The Falcons will be aiming higher in 2024.

A wave of Rowan athletes could help them get where they want to go.

“There are a lot of kids out there who may think they’re not good enough to compete in college, but if they love the sport and they’re willing to work, we can give them an opportunity at Pfeiffer to keep improving and to get an education,” Marchinko said.

Pfeiffer will host a college/high school cross country meet on Sept. 16 and hopes to draw a large number of schools from Rowan, Cabarrus and Stanly for that competition.

“We’ve got some beautiful land out here, and it’s going to be great exposure for us,” Marchinko said.