‘I feel like I’m in the Olympics’: Reece breaks new track records

Freshman Arabella Reece, who has broken five Chapman records since starting at Chapman this fall, most recently breaking the university’s 5K and 6K records. Photo by Max Weirauch

Every runner starts somewhere. Maybe on the playground or with a game of tag. There’s usually a reason for gravitating toward the “lifestyle,” as freshman Arabella Reece calls it. When Reece fell in love with running, she was taking part in a time-honored Thanksgiving tradition at her middle school in fifth grade.

“I ran the Turkey Trot at my school,” Reece said. “It was a super short race, but basically, first place got a turkey.”

Now, around five years later, Reece is a cross-country and track and field runner for the Panthers. She’s earned a wide slate of accomplishments in both areas, most recently finishing a cross-country season in which she broke school records for the 5K and 6K, becoming the first female cross-country athlete in Chapman history to reach the Division III championships.

“I’m still in shock about it; people bring it up sometimes and I’m like, ‘Was that me?’” Reece said. “People were so supportive; my coaches and my teammates and everyone at the school.”

With cross-country season over, Reece is transitioning into running track. Despite a successful fall season Reece prefers track — it’s more competitive and exciting.

“Every time I run track, I feel like I’m in the Olympics,” Reece said. “The stands are all full and everyone is cheering for you, and it’s really tense … I enjoy the hype.”

Reece set her first Chapman track record Feb. 16 in the 800-meter race at the Pomona-Pitzer Track and Field All Comers Meet. Reece ran a time of 2:25.74, beating the previous record set in 2014 by 0.11 seconds.

Reece was also a member of two women’s teams that broke Chapman record times in the distance medley relay (DMR) and the four by 800-meter relay at the Rossi Relays held at Claremont Mudd-Scripps Feb. 23.

The DMR team, consisting of Reece, Emma Eglinton, Angelica Kolar and Carly Trent, broke the previous record by 22 seconds, with a time of 12:58.10. Reece also participated in the 4×800 relay with Trent, Gabi Siguenza and Tish Tajii, finishing with a time of 10:15.96 and breaking the school record by over six seconds.

Having a chance to run in a relay with others on the team built a feeling of camaraderie, Reece said. For both races, she was positioned as “anchor,” the runner tasked with finishing the relay race.

“It’s scary, being the last one. Everybody expects you to make up for any mistakes if anybody messes up or gets placed really far back,” Reece said. “I was able to do what we needed to do for our team, which made me feel good that it’s not just for myself … but it’s also for the benefit of other people, and other people are helping me.”

Reece said she’s extremely close with her teammates and their support is one of the main reasons she competes. She said running creates a bond between team members.

“You really spend a lot of time with these people (on your team), and you’re in a lot of pain, and look very ugly. It’s not glamorous — you can’t really impress people,” Reece said. “It’s brutal, other times it’s hot, everyone’s dying, but the people make it great.”

With five Chapman records broken since the beginning of her college career, Reece plans to keep pushing.

“I have the 5K, the 6K, the 800, the distance medley relay, the four by 800 (records), and now I just want to break all the other ones because I need to do it,” Reece said.