The Valparaiso University cross country and track & field programs have announced a trio of incoming distance runners for the 2023-2024 academic and athletic year.
Interim Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Vincent Walker has announced that Vivian Rahmel (Springfield, Ill. / Sacred Heart-Griffin) will join his women’s program, while Alejandro Chaves (Bayamon, P.R. / American Military Academy) and Karson Hollander (Lakewood, Ill. / Crystal Lake) will join the Valpo men beginning with the 2023-2024 campaign. All three are distance runners.
During an accomplished high school career, Rahmel is a three-time state qualifier in cross country and a two-time state qualifier in track & field. She is a two-time all-conference performer in cross country, a two-time all-conference honoree in track & field, a cross country regional champion and a Capital Area Sports Awards honoree.
“We are really excited to have Vivian joining our program,” Walker said. “She is a talented runner who brings a lot of experience to our team. Her dedication to her craft and ‘team first’ mindset will be a great addition to what we are building here at Valpo. I can’t wait to work with her next fall.”
Rahmel had several positive interactions with members of the College of Business during her Valpo visit and is drawn to study supply chain management. All aspects of the University from both an athletic and academic standpoint inspired her to select Valpo.
“After being on campus over the summer, I realized that Valpo was the only school that I was considering that marked off every box on the list of what I was looking for in a school,” Rahmel said. “From an academic standpoint, it had all of the programs and opportunities that I valued most. I love how the school seems so involved in the community. From a religious aspect, there are amazing resources available on campus. From the athletic standpoint, I really value the team aspect of track & field and cross country, and I got to see what the team atmosphere at Valpo is like when I visited. There is a positive culture among the athletes, and that is something I prioritized.”
Chaves qualified for the Puerto Rico National Team at NACAC 2021 National Championship of Puerto Rico in the 1500m and 3000m. He finished in seventh place in the 3000 at the junior Olympics. A member of National Honor Society, Chaves was the best cross country runner in his league. His 1500 personal best is 4:02 and his 3000 best is 9:10 with both of those marks occurring during his junior year.
“Alejandro is a real go-getter with a mature racing style that is beyond his years,” Walker said. “His strong work ethic and international race experience brings a unique perspective and will be a great addition to what we are building here. He will look to make an immediate impact for us next fall.”
Chaves is friends with current Valpo standout Ignacio Veloz-Bonilla and the success Veloz Bonilla has enjoyed at Valpo led Chaves to consider the University, where he will study biology.
“I really felt a connection when I got to Valpo,” Chaves said. “I really love the place. Every person I talked to was so lovely and gentle. I felt a good connection with the environment and saw a vision that my future was going to be great at Valpo. It is a dream come true for me to be competing at the Division-I level. I’ve worked all my life for this moment.”
Hollander has a three-mile PR of 15:12 and is a three-time IHSA cross country all-sectional runner and state qualifier. He helped his team win a 2020 sectional crown. In track & field, he is a state qualifier and two-time all-sectional runner with PRs of 9:47 in the 3200, 4:35 in the 1600 and 2:02 in the 800. He is also an all-sectional soccer player.
“I am thrilled to welcome Karson to the team,” Walker said. “He is a highly-driven individual who has just started to scratch the surface of what he is capable of. His passion for the sport and team-oriented mindset is exactly what we are looking for here at Valpo.”
Hollander plans to pursue a degree in biochemistry on the pre-med track. He is also aware of Valpo’s strong nursing and health sciences programs and views those as options as well. The opportunity that exists at Valpo in both the academic and athletic realms played a key role in his decision to join the Beacons.
“I loved the campus and thought it was beautiful,” Hollander said. “It was cool seeing all of the buildings and the chapel. Coach Walker has been super supportive of me during my high school cross country season and has been a great resource in the college selection process. He has a lot of big and ambitious goals for the team, and I want to be a part of that. I’m excited to compete at the next level and keep pushing my potential as an athlete and as a runner. I’ll get a great opportunity to do that at Valparaiso.”