Senior captain Chibron Tomeo found a new family at Whitworth having transferred after his sophomore year at Spokane Community College. At age 26, Tomeo became a part of the track and field team as a pole vaulter where he continued his career after a four-year break from school and competitive sports.
Tomeo originates from Spokane but grew up in Glenwood, Wash., which is about 300 miles south of Whitworth. He went to kindergarten through 10th grade at Glenwood and then moved back to transfer to Mead High School in Spokane, Wash. for his junior year of high school.
“In Glenwood, there are a lot of really good pole vaulters,” Tomeo said. “My coach wanted me to try it and I just fell in love with [the event]. I continued vaulting in high school for all four years.”
Tomeo decided to take a break from school after graduated from Mead in 2005 to solely focus on work. He worked for Neighborhood Fence during his time away from school and built fences for a living.
“I knew I didn’t want to build fences for the rest of my life,” Tomeo said. “My mom and my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, encouraged me to go back to school. They thought I was beating myself up working as hard as I did. Although I didn’t mind working, going back to school was a great decision.”
During his time off, Tomeo took part in city basketball and flag football leagues.
“I stayed in decent shape but not in good enough shape for track,” Tomeo said.
Tomeo returned to school in 2009 at Spokane Community College where he took part in the track and field program offered there. His high school coach, Gary Baskett, was the one who encouraged and inspired him to go to Whitworth.
“He always came up and talked to me about going to Whitworth,” Tomeo said. “He was at almost every meet and told me that Whitworth is where I should be.”
In high school, Tomeo was also a sprinter. He ran the 100-meter dash, 400-meter dash, 4x400 relay, and pole vaulted. He decided to focus on pole vaulting after struggling with consistent hamstring injuries.
He contacted head track and field coach Toby Schwarz and talked to him about making the decision to come to Whitworth. He attended his first team meeting in the fall of 2011 and confirmed his transfer.
“The coaches are great and everyone was super supportive,” Tomeo said. “It felt like family on the track team and that made it an easy decision. It was a lot of fun getting to know everybody.”
Those words were echoed by Schwarz.
“He’s a perfect fit for our team,” Schwarz said. “He’s a captain this year and being a captain after only being here for two years; it shows how [perfect] of a fit this really is. He is very relational, he’s very respectful with coaches and very interested in his teammates. He watches people do other events, he’s concerned about injuries; that’s why he’s such a great captain. He’s not an ‘I’ person he’s an ‘others’ person.”
Tomeo was concerned with how he would fit in being an older student-athlete who is married with a child, but Schwarz was not.
“You look at him and he doesn’t look any different and he acts like a typical student. He looks like a mature leader, but not an older student,” Schwarz said. “But that’s ‘Bron’, you wouldn’t know he’s one of the top competitors in the nation.”
Senior Shannon Winant was one of the first men on the track team to get to know Tomeo and he agrees. There are no negative thoughts on the team for Tomeo being a college athlete with a wife and child according to Winant.
“People just respect him more; he knows more about life,” Winant said. “He’s an amazing dad and husband and he’s just really humble. Everyone loves his entire family and when they see him interact with his wife and kid, everybody falls in love with him.”
As a captain, Winant explains him to be their silent leader.
“He’s not a vocal leader but he’s very approachable,” Winant said. “Everybody looks up to him and respects him; some people call him dad. He has a lot of wisdom and knowledge that not a lot of people have. He already has such a great personality so as soon as we saw him pole vault we were sold. He’s a huge part of our team.”
Tomeo contributed to the team right away already being a two-time conference champion. He recently broke the school record in the pole vault after clearing 16-1 3/4 at the 2013 Northwest Conference Championships. He currently ranks third at the Division III national level.
“Last year was his first year at nationals because it was his first opportunity,” Schwarz said. “He finished 10th and has the potential to be in the top eight this year.”
A goal for Tomeo at nationals is to be an All-American, help score points for the team, and break into the top three, if not win it Schwarz said.
Other than his goals in track and field, Tomeo dreams of future things. Tomeo originally studied occupational therapy when he transferred to Whitworth but changed his major in the fall of 2012 to elementary education. He hopes to teach fourth grade and also coach pole vaulting at his alma mater, Mead High School.
“I’m already talking to Mead coaches about positions there,” Tomeo said. “They want me to start working there next year.”
Winant believes this is what he’s meant to do.
“Seeing him interact with his little boy is proof enough that he’ll be an amazing teacher,” Winant said. “Whenever he talks about it he has a huge smile on his face; he’s very passionate and he really wants to be a great teacher just like he is a great dad and a great husband.”
Contact Tiara Pajimola at email@example.com