June 18, 2018
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Former track star Rybalko returns to UMaine in coaching role

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
UMaine’s Viktoriya Rybalko competes in the long jump during the America East track and field championships at UMaine’s Beckett Track Complex in Orono in May 2003. Rybalko has returned to UMaine as an assistant coach with the track and field team.
By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

Viktoriya Rybalko is the most decorated jumper ever to compete for the University of Maine.

The former All-American was the 2003 America East Women‘s Track and Field Athlete of the Year. She won six individual conference titles indoors and five more outdoors on her way to a total of seven All-America East honors from 2000-03.

Even though she continues to compete, the native of the Ukraine has returned to Orono in a new role. UMaine head track and field coach Mark Lech on Friday confirmed Rybalko has been hired as an assistant coach for the Black Bears.

“She has hit the ground running,” Lech said of the standout long jumper and triple jumper, who replaces former UMaine assistant Dave Cusano, who is now the head coach at Wheaton College.

“Obviously, she had a barrel full of credentials,” Lech said. “The student-athletes have a role model to look at and it shouldn’t hurt with recruiting, either.”

Lech said Rybalko’s arrival was delayed a bit since she has been pursuing a doctorate in physiology at the University of Texas. She also needed to procure a work visa.

The 29-year-old Rybalko should be a tremendous resource for UMaine’s jumpers. She competed for the Ukraine in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she finished 12th with a jump of 6.43 meters, or 21 feet, 1.14 inches.

Lech said Rybalko’s background as both an athlete and accomplished student lends itself to her becoming a coach.

“Put the expertise and the teaching [courses] together and that’s what coaching is, being able to impart that knowledge,” Lech said.

However, the 29-year-old Rybalko has not hung up the spikes quite yet. She finished seventh last summer in the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

“We talked about it and I think she still wants to go until this Olympics this summer [in London],” Lech said. “She doesn’t need to have a lot of competitions to get there. She just has to have the right training focus at the right time and she can get that here while she’s coaching.”

Rybalko earned All-America status in 2003 when she finished second in the NCAA Championships outdoors. She still holds the America East Championship outdoor record in the long jump at 20 feet, 10 3/4 inches, set in 2003. She also had a wind-aided leap of 21-2 3/4 in the 2002 outdoor meet.

Outdoors, she won the long jump in 2000 and the triple jump in 2002 and 2003. Indoors, Rybalko owned the long jump from 2000 through 2003. She also claimed the triple jump crown in 2002 and 2003.

Rybalko earned a degree in biochemistry/microbiology at UMaine and won the 2003 Dean Smith Award, which is given to the school’s top scholar-athlete. She later procured a master’s degree in microbiology at the University of Rochester.

She was inducted into the UMaine Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

Charity hoop tourney set at UM

Roosevelt Boone was excited last summer to see all the smiling faces during his successful Wellness and Nutrition Summer Youth Camp at the University of Maine.

The athletic program director of the nonprofit group Strong Mind-Strong Body Inc., is now trying to generate interest and funds for the 2012 youth camp.

The UMaine field house will be the venue for Strong Mind-Strong Body’s “We Run the Courts” three-on-three basketball tournament. Proceeds from THE event, which will take place from 3-7 p.m. Jan. 29, will support the youth camp.

UMaine’s Male Athletes Against Violence group also is helping run the tournament.

“We should have a lot of students from on campus, but I want to extend it to people outside of campus, also,” said Boone, a Washington, D.C., native who in December completed his career as a member of the Black Bears football team.

“We’re going to have a free-throw contest, a dunk contest and a celebrity three-on-three game,” Boone said, pointing out the celebrities are local veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

The tournament will feature men’s and women’s brackets for players ages 18 and over. Games will be 12 minutes and each team is guaranteed two games.

Current or former collegiate basketball letter winners are not eligible.

The cost is $30 per team before Jan. 29 and $40 the day of the event. There will be a $150 cash prize for the winner of each division.

Boone said a few area businesses, including Sam’s Club and University Credit Union, along with UMaine’s ROTC program, have made donations. He is hopeful to generate more support for the event.

“We’re still looking for sponsorships,” he said.

Strong Mind-Strong Body Inc. was started by Boone last year in an effort to help provide underprivileged children with opportunities to improve their fitness through athletic endeavors.

Its mission is to foster physical, mental and spiritual wellness through summer youth camps for children ages 10-17 in an effort to improve their quality of life.

Boone, who is student teaching as a physical education instructor at Orono High School, hopes to be able to expand the youth camp in 2012.

“I want to make it maybe an extra five or so days and I want to make it residential so we can bring in kids from other parts of the state and also from other states,” he said.

Donations may be sent to: Roosevelt Boone, Program Director, Innovation Center, University of Maine, 20 Godfrey Drive, Orono 04473. Boone may be reached at 202-375-8033 or via email at r.boone36@yahoo.com.

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