Olympic-bound athlete’s college track career ends with personal best

    Vada Phillips-Felder, shown in the top left, stands at her 1954 graduation from the Brite Divinity School. Phillips-Felder, who was the first black female to graduate from Brite, died at 97 this summer. Photo courtesy of Brite Divinity School

    She is one of the most accomplished track and field athletes in the NCAA, earning a spot on her country’s track and field team for the upcoming Beijing Olympics and receiving more All-American awards than any woman in TCU history.

    Senior Virgil Hodge finished her final outdoor meet at the Lowden Track and Field Complex at TCU with a personal best in the 100 meters with a time of 11.26 and has continued working her way toward the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

    At the conclusion of the indoor season this spring, Hodge was named the Mountain West Conference Women’s Indoor Track and Field Student-Athlete of the Year. Hodge was also named an All-American for the sixth time.

    Conference queen

    The native of Caribbean islands St. Kitts and Nevis had a strong showing at this year’s conference indoor championship. She beat the field in both the 60- and 200-meter dashes for the second straight year. Following her victories, Hodge was given the 2008 Women’s Outstanding Performance Award.

    She will graduate in May with a degree in communication studies but is not finished with her TCU career just yet.

    At the TCU Invitational on April 19, Hodge placed first overall in the 100- and 200-meter events. In the 100-meter Hodge ran a personal best of 11.26 to place first overall.

    Not only did her 100-meter time provide the win, it also broke her own St. Kitts national record and is the 10th-fastest time in the world.

    Home in St. Kitts

    What Hodge is most looking forward to about this year’s outdoor season is the NCAA Championships at the end of June. It will be the first time someone from her family will get to see her race as a Horned Frog.

    The last time Hodge went home was last summer.

    “I am always excited when I get an opportunity to go back home,” Hodge said. “Whenever I also get the opportunity to race while I am back at St. Kitts, it makes the visit much more meaningful for me and my family.”

    Off the oval

    On the track, the Flyin’ Frogs are all business, but outside the lines, they’re friends.

    “When we get off the track we hang out, laugh, cry and spend time with each other just like we do with other friends,” she said.

    Hodge even cooks Caribbean dinners for the whole team.

    “Anytime Virgil says she is cooking there’s no doubt I’ll be able to make it over because I love to eat,” said Hodges’ teammate Jessica Young. “I never used to eat red beans with rice, but now it’s one of my favorite things to eat.”

    Next on track

    After the outdoor championships, Hodge said, she will go home and spend time with her family. But it won’t be long until she is training again.

    “After I finish resting up at home, I will spend some time in Europe competing in events that will have strong competition and hopefully help get me ready for the Olympics,” Hodge said. “I am very busy and there is not a lot of rest time, but I know I have to keep working year-round if I want to be the best I can be.”

    Hodge does have plans for life after track and field. She says she has always been interested in travel and hopes she can make a career out of it.

    “I really would like to use my communication degree to compliment my enjoyment of travel and learning about new places,” she said. “I think that I will try to work for an airline company and see where it will end up taking me.”