George Mason University

News at Mason

Primed for Gold: Track Standout David Verburg Wins in Mexico

August 4, 2012

Text by Robin Herron; video by Paul King

David Verburg wearing the medals he earned at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Under-23 Championships this summer. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Even after a stellar year filled with athletic triumphs, including a more-than-respectable finish at Olympic trials, you can’t help thinking that great things are still to come for Mason’s David Verburg.

The rising senior and track star began his career at Mason by being named Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Rookie of the Year; and he finished his junior year by being named CAA Male Athlete of the Year. In the CAA Championships, he’s won the 400-meter race in each of the past three years, he’s set school records, and he’s competed nationally and internationally.

The past year was the best of his young career. In June, he went to the Olympic trials at the University of Oregon, where he just missed going to London, placing seventh in the 400-meter sprint. Only the top three finishers got spots on the Olympic team.

He admits that going to the trials was “nerve-wracking — just walking out there and seeing Hayward stadium and seeing 5,000-plus fans really caught me off-guard.”  His semifinal time wasn’t the best, so for the final race he was slotted in lane one, a disadvantage.

Coming so close to landing a spot on the Olympic team wasn’t a setback for Verburg, however. He remains confident and has no doubt he’ll be trying again in four years, “God willing,” he says.

During the Olympic trials he rubbed elbows with the best in his sport, many of whom he had met at previous competitions. He obviously picked up some pointers from the experience because two weeks later he won gold in the 400-meter race for the USA team at the 2012 North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Under-23 Championships held in Guanajuato, Mexico. He also helped the men’s 4×400-meter relay team snag gold in Mexico, running the final leg of the race.

“Any time you put on a USA jersey you want to do the best you can. Going out there and beating people from the Bahamas, Canada and Jamaica, and winning gold for the U.S., is an honor,” Verburg says.

Verburg grew up in Kentucky and played football and soccer in high school; he ran track mostly for conditioning. But when his family moved to Lynchburg, Va., for his senior year of high school, he was told he was too small for college football and didn’t have the skills for the next level of soccer. “So I was like, I’ll give track a try, for real, my senior year. I started getting faster, and I started getting better — and that’s all she wrote.”

And while Verburg says he’s “still learning” the 400-meter race, that’s become his specialty. His time has steadily improved, and his personal best in the 400 is 45.06.

Verburg says his family has been “extremely supportive and with me every step of the way,” and his Mason teammates give him constant support and encouragement. And he has high praise for track head coach Andy Gerard, assistant coach Melanie Rhoden and especially sprint coach Abigi Id-Deen, who kept giving him good advice — which he brushed off his first two years at Mason.

“But this year, I sat down and talked to him, and I said, just tell me what to do and I’ll do it. What he said was, ‘Stop focusing on your time, just worry about your race.’ So I focused on fixing my race, and that in turn brought around my time.”

Gerard, a four-time CAA Coach of the Year, says, “We’re thrilled with the progress he’s made athletically this year, but we’ve also seen him mature as a person and team leader over his time here. That is probably the most gratifying piece — to see someone do things the right way, grow and develop not only on the track but in all aspects of their life.”

Verburg has a few routines that help him prepare for competition:  listening to music, mentally reviewing the race, clearing his mind. When he runs, he doesn’t wear socks. “Also, I have to have a bracelet on. I don’t know why, but if I don’t have a bracelet on I have to find something before I run,” he says, jiggling his wrists.

A health, fitness and recreation resources major with a concentration sport management, Verburg expects to graduate next May. And then? “I want to pursue a pro career, and I’ll see how far that takes me. But, of course, academics are important — I can’t run forever.  I want to be a sports agent and do something sports-affiliated.”

For the rest of the summer, Verburg says he’s focused on conditioning, which surprises his coach.

“He had a long, tiring year, and you’d expect someone to take some down time, chill and do nothing, but literally a week after returning from Mexico he came by the office on his way to the weight room!” Gerard exclaims. “Some people get complacent or relax after the kind of year he had, but his success has definitely spurred him to achieve even more. We are very pleased to have him back for another year and know he’s primed to do big things.”