Tal Hamel’s goal of becoming a Division I college athlete has taken the Bethlehem senior from Delmar to Virginia, where he’s been honing his sprinting skills, and displaying them, too.
This past weekend, at the VA Showcase at the Virginia Beach Sports Center, he showed plenty with a school-record run in the 300-meter race.
“He wants to run Division I. The question was, ‘How can he train and how can he get exposure?’ ” Bethlehem track coach Darnell Douglas said. “He has family that lives there. This gets the ball rolling a little earlier.”
With the Section II indoor track season on pause, Hamel has been living with an aunt and uncle in Virginia Beach while fulfilling his academic duties remotely and training regularly at the nearby Landstown High School track.
“I wanted to train. That was the main thing,” said the 17-year-old Hamel. “Competing was in the back of my mind.”
“I give him a weekly plan,” Douglas said. “Some days, I’ll ask him to film it and we’ll break it down.”
Hamel competed at The Armory Trials in New York City twice in November and again in early December before heading to Virginia to amp up his training.
“I could have gone here or North Carolina because I also have family there,” Hamel said.
Virginia had the recently built Virginia Beach Sports Center, and some big meets scheduled there, including the VA Showcase, where Hamel ran a 35.21 to break the Bethlehem record of 36.33 that Nate Brands had produced in 2016.
“His mom texted me a video and asked if he got the record. He got it by quite a lot,” Douglas said. “Later on, he called me and we dissected the race.”
Hamel ran unattached in one of 45 heats. Of the 203 runners that competed in the 300, he placed sixth. Adam Landen of IMG Elite placed first in 34.82.
“The plan was to run as fast as possible,” Douglas said. “The fact that he was sixth was a plus.”
Hamel’s 300 time is third-best for New York runners this winter, and 22nd on the national list.
“I do think I can run faster,” Hamel said. “On the first curve, I held back a bit. I want to break 35.”
Hamel said he intends to compete again at the Virginia Beach Sports Center Feb. 5 at the East Coast Invitational. When he’ll head back to the Capital Region, he’s not quite sure, but does believe there will be an outdoor season in which to run after last year’s spring campaign was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ll be popping some good times,” Hamel said. “What I am doing now is setting the foundation.”