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Christian Union
October 4, 2013

Princeton Relay Team Wins Indoor Championship

When the men's distance medley relay team from Princeton University won a national title at the NCAA indoor track and field meet, the victory was sweet, especially for Princeton Faith and Action (www.pfanda.com).

Three of the four members participate in the leadership development ministry supported and resourced by Christian Union.

In March, the Tigers secured the distance medley relay to claim their first national indoor title since 2002. Seniors Peter Callahan, Russell Dinkins, and Austin Hollimon and junior Michael Williams pulled ahead of Penn State University by nearly a second to finish in 9:33.01.

"It was huge for these guys," said Mark Catlin, Christian Union's teaching fellow at Princeton. "For Princeton to win a national championship in track was incredible."

Catlin leads a Bible course comprised of members of Princeton's track team, and longtime members of the course include Williams and Callahan, team captain.

In fall 2009, Ministry Fellow Scott Jones, Cornell '04, launched the group at the request of two sophomores who wanted to bolster the spiritual strength and cohesiveness of members of Princeton's cross-country squad.

During the 2012-13 year, more than a third of the 27-member cross-country team participated in Catlin's Bible Course. Though cross country only competes in the fall, most of the runners also compete in indoor and outdoor track.

Hollimon is especially active in the leadership development ministry; he attends Catlin's course for senior men, and he plays the drums for Truth Thursdays, Princeton Faith and Action's (PFA) gatherings that reflect the cultural heritage of students of the African Diaspora.

The foursome who competed in the distance medley relay for Princeton claimed the national title during the 2013 NCAA Division I Men's Indoor Track and Field Championships, which were held at the University of Arkansas. During an onsite interview with Flotrack, Callahan described the victory as a longtime goal. "I'm thankful we were able to have a good race and bring a medal home to Princeton," said the native of Evanston, Illinois, and history major.

"We've been training together for a long time. This has been a dream for us for a long time."

Hollimon echoed those comments, noting his team pulled together to execute a spectacular win, despite intense competition. "My job was to get us out of the bunch and into the top group," he said.

"We've got a national title, and God is good."

Hollimon also credited Callahan's role in Princeton's razor-thin victory.

"As I told the guys at ESPN, we have all the faith in the world in Peter Callahan," he said. "We knew if we got [the baton] to him in position it was going to be our championship to win."

Likewise, Princeton Athletic Communications described Callahan as a "slingshot as he left the competition in the dust as the bell sounded for the final lap." It also noted Hollimon, who competed in the U.S. Olympic trials in the 400-meter hurdles in 2012, raced the fastest 400-meter leg of the 12 teams at 46.35.

Callahan, an All-America and sub-four-minute miler, served as a major catalyst for the Tigers. After a big indoor season in 2012, Callahan did not compete in cross country and spent most of the indoor season recovering from an injury.

Not surprisingly, another individual celebrating Princeton's amazing season was Fred Samara, Penn '73, head coach of the men's track and field team and a former Olympian.

The athletes also credit their participation in Princeton's faith community, including PFA, for their spiritual development and determination.

"I have met so many men and women of tremendous faith. PFA and Bible courses were so much a part of that," said Hollimon, also a drummer with Princeton United Gospel Ensemble. "I am tremendously blessed."

In turn, James Fields, a Christian Union ministry fellow at Princeton, noted Christ is central to Hollimon. "Austin exemplifies the Christian character and mature leadership that God is developing within all of our students at Princeton Faith and Action," he said.

Track team member Michael Palmisano '13 said the Bible course "has been wonderful for the spiritual growth of all of our men."

Jones, who oversaw the course for two years, agreed. "It's been really cool to see how the Bible course has shaped the culture of the team, to see the guys really own the course," he said.

Winning a national title was great, but Catlin noted the runners from his Bible course also are pressing toward the mark spiritually.

"It was an intense year," he said. "We really challenged these guys to be men of God."