Home Homepage Latest Stories Passing the Baton: Michelle Itoua Breaks Her Own Coach’s Record

Passing the Baton: Michelle Itoua Breaks Her Own Coach’s Record

by Ryan Nussbaum

In the first track meet of the indoor season, Montclair State University sprinter Michelle Itoua broke the school record for the 60 meter sprint. Then she broke it again. Then she did it a third time.

The sophomore sprinter from Irvington, New Jersey has been the face of a resurging women’s track & field program. As a freshman, Itoua was an All-New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) honorable mention in the 4 x 200, placed third in the 2023 NJAC Indoor Championship for the 4 x 200 and qualified for the regional meet.

Her performances this season however, have been next level.

Itoua was quick to credit the coaching staff for her improved times. 2024 is the first season there have been separate coaching staffs for the men’s and women’s track & field teams. One of the sprinting coaches happened to be one of the program’s greatest athletes.

Coach Jocelyn Anderson was a two-time NJAC champion in the 60m hurdles. She also held the school record for the 60m sprint, with her time of 8.12 seconds being the standard since she graduated in 2018. Itoua emphasized that they have a great relationship with each other.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Itoua

Photo courtesy of Michelle Itoua

“[Anderson] is like a big sister to me,” Itoua said. “I feel like she’s like a motivation to me, because she was the first one who had the [60m sprint] record. And then [now] she’s my coach.”

It is not uncommon for former athletes to come back to Montclair State, but Anderson and her record breaking accomplishments as a Red Hawk immediately added legitimacy to the brand new women’s track & field staff. Anderson said that although it is a little bittersweet seeing her records be challenged, mentoring the next generation of athletes is incredibly rewarding.

“Since graduating, I’ve been keeping up with [Montclair State] track and always wanted that one athlete to come through and break those records,” Anderson said. “Now being a part of that and helping her reach her goals feels amazing. I honestly wouldn’t want my records to be broken any other way.”

Itoua said that Anderson’s wealth of knowledge has helped her improve over the season.

“[Anderson] was helping me with my blocks,” Itoua said. “And then I think it’s because of that, I’m getting better [with] my blocks and my starts. Also my forms.”

A change in mentality helped her succeed as well. Itoua said that she decided that she wanted to be an All-American so she became more dedicated than ever to get to that level.

“I’ve performed better, because last year, I wasn’t dedicated,” Itoua said. “Last year, I was a little bit like, you know, trying to have fun. I wasn’t taking track [seriously]. But this year, I decided to be a good runner. I want to be an All-American. That’s why every single time I step on that track, I give my best.”

Her coaches agree. First year head coach Peter Tuohy said that Itoua’s sprinting style gives her the edge in the 60m event.

“Mechanically, she attacks, she attacks the ground.” Tuhoy said. “The more force you get out of the ground, if you can get off it really quick. The amount of ground contact time, as that decreases, you get more power right in your stride. And she’s so quick, so aggressive with how she maneuvers forward and maneuvers the ground that you just see a huge difference for someone who’s a short sprinter like that, versus someone who might be a longer sprinter. Her intensity, the way she maneuvers is kind of the thing that sticks out to me when I see her workout.”

Photo courtesy of Michelle Itoua

Photo courtesy of Michelle Itoua

It was no surprise that the record fell in this year’s season opening Seahawk Shootout.

With a time of 8.02 seconds, Itoua sprinted her way into history. Tuohy said the excitement was palpable when the 60m record was bested by .13 seconds.

“Well, it’s funny, you know, it happened in the first [meet] so we’re excited,” Tuohy said. “But that kind of set the tone. Coming in with a new coaching staff and for us to see something positive right in the beginning was super cool.”

Anderson said that she was celebrating as well.

“I was ecstatic!” Anderson said. “I think I actually jumped for joy. Michelle breaking the record at the first meet meant that we could only go up from there.”

It was only the start of Itoua’s record-breaking season.

She set an arguably more important milestone later that season by becoming the first woman in program history to break the 8-second mark in the 60m sprint (7.99 seconds).

Tuohy said that Itoua’s work ethic is second to none.

“She works really, really hard,” Touhy said. “And she brings this intensity to practice every day. “I would say we know that they’re a good athlete when they’re bringing 100% to practice every day.”

With the record currently standing at 7.95, Itoua is in a class of her own. With two more years left, she said that she wants to be remembered as one of the program’s greatest runners.

“I want to [look back at] myself like I really did great in this sport.” Itoua said. “Like I break my record every single time that I step on the track. And that I’m the first woman here that broke the [8 second mark]. Even after I graduate, I want everybody to remember [that] I was the first one.”

According to Anderson, that mentality makes great runners.

“Michelle’s dedication and determination make her a great sprinter,” Anderson said. “Without those two things it’s really hard to continuously get better. As a track athlete, you’re always competing against yourself, so the want and drive are most important when trying to make that happen and she has what it takes.”

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