March 4, 2019 / Hall of fame inductee Natalia Bartnovskaya Price was a star from the start
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VINCENNES, Ind. - Natalia Bartnovskaya Price became a five-time national champion as a Vincennes University track and field student-athlete, but she had no idea the brilliance ahead of her when she competed in her very first meet.
“It was all NCAA schools and I was a little intimidated,” she said. “[VU Assistant Coach Tim Marsee] told me to go out and have fun, and that’s all that matters your first meet, and that’s what I did.”
Price, who competed as Natalia Bartnovskaya, made history at VU when she became the first female VU athlete to win a national championship in any sport. She won four national titles in the pole vault and one national championship in the long jump. She was the indoor pole vault national champion in 2011 and 2012. She was the outdoor pole vault national champion those same years. In 2012 she also won the indoor long jump national title. She was a national long jump runner-up twice.
Price was inducted into the NJCAA Track and Field Coaches Association Hall of Fame on March 1. The ceremony was held as part of the NJCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Pittsburg, Kansas.
She was visiting her native Russia when she learned she was being inducted via an email from Coach Marsee.
“It’s such a big honor,” Price said. “This was a very pleasant surprise.”
Former VU Track and Field Head Coach Chris Gafner, who got Price to VU using a recruiting service that connects universities with international students, knew he had a budding standout in her from the very start. However, he needed to convince others outside of the program, particularly during Price’s freshman year at a season-opening indoor meet hosted by Indiana University.
“We knew we had something special with her,” Gafner said. “She had been training well and when we went to IU they put her in the open pole vault, not the invitational pole vault. The open wasn’t quite as prestigious and she was also long jumping that day, and the open pole vault and open long jump were at the same time.
“I went up to the meet director and said, ‘This girl is going to be really good and belongs in the invitational pole vault. Is there any way we can put her in that so she doesn’t have to long jump and pole vault at the same time?’” He said, “I don’t know.” I said, “Trust me.”
“Then she went out and broke the fieldhouse (pole vault) record at IU and she broke the national record by two feet. The meet director went from being very skeptical to asking me all about her because they were very interested in recruiting her,” said Gafner.
Price’s Gladstein Fieldhouse record from Jan. 29, 2011, still stands at 13 feet, 9 3/4 inches (4.21 m).
And she only got better from there.
Marsee served as Price’s pole vault coach.
“Natalia was a complete pleasure to work with,” he said. “She always had a desired to be the very best and she was confident in her training and ability to achieve her goals. Natalia is one of those rare athletes that most coaches dream about coaching.”
Price still holds national meet records in both the indoor and outdoor pole vault. She vaulted 14 feet, 1 1/4 inches (4.30m) at the indoor meet in 2011 and vaulted 13 feet, 9 3/4 inches (4.21m) at the outdoor meet in 2012.
She was named National Athlete of the Meet three times.
“That’s saying she is the best athlete in junior college track and field,” Gafner said. “She won that three out of the four times she competed and I don’t know many athletes that have ever done anything like that. It’s hard enough to win it once.
“The pole vault was her main event, but she was also a national champion in the long jump and national runner-up in the long jump two times. Both times she lost by less than two centimeters. She even high jumped for us at a national meet and placed nationally in the hurdles. We didn’t focus on hurdles as much, but it was something she did to help the team. If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have made the jump that we did with the women’s program. She really helped put the VU women’s track and field program on the map,” Gafner concluded.
Price continued her college career at the University of Kansas where she became the 2013 NCAA indoor pole vault national champion. Her runner-up finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships helped the Jayhawks win the national title. She is a member of the University of Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame.
“This wouldn’t have happened without Coach Marsee and Coach Gafner,” Price said. “They helped me to adapt to American culture. Coach Marsee has been an American dad for me.
“I’m grateful for my overall experience at Vincennes University. The people I met on my journey at Vincennes University helped me to get where I am right now. I still come to Vincennes every year to visit Coach Marsee and Coach Gafner.”
Price graduated from VU in 2012 with an associate degree in interior design. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Kansas in economics with a minor in communications. She currently is a real estate agent and lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with her husband Brett Price.
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