By Jake Tiger
TWENTY-ONE athletes lined up for the 800-meter race at the Virginia Challenge on April 21, few as feared as Rider’s graduate student distance runner, Teagan Schein-Becker.
Years ago, running was Schein-Becker’s backup plan, who now stepped to the starting line already holding the Rider record in the 800-meter race.
Schein-Becker sees running as a form of expression, but growing up, she always dreamed of painting at an art school, not shattering school records and competing with some of the nation’s top athletes, but that dream was almost a reality.
With her spikes dug into the track, Schein-Becker took off in a blur of cranberry, but if not for a phone call, one of the most decorated runners in Rider history would have spent April 21 painting at Temple.
‘I would just paint’
For Schein-Becker, artistic inclination runs in the family. Not only did her father go to school for graphic design, her grandmother was an art teacher, who gave a youthful Schein-Becker the tools and space she needed to create.
“I was always asking to go to her school,” said Schein-Becker. “I would go to school, I would come back with her … I would just paint.”
Schein-Becker painted throughout her childhood, making it her focus in high school, but it was around that time when her talents as an athlete surfaced. The distance runner competed in the Pennsylvania State Championships multiple times, placing as high as ninth and garnering attention from recruiters.
Schein-Becker inevitably faced a fork in the road: one path paved in red rubber, the other a blank canvas running with color.
“If I went to Temple, it’d be for art school. If I [went to Rider], it’d be for running,” said Schein-Becker. “In high school, I was [painting] every day; all of my classes were designated to art, because I was actually planning to go to art school.”
Schein-Becker appeared destined for Temple, but a pivotal, impromptu phone call from Rider track and field Head Coach Bob Hamer swayed her toward Rider at the last second.
“Hamer called me and he was like, ‘Hey, so we had this scholarship money for you, and l if you don’t take it now or tomorrow, it’s done, so you have to decide,” said Schein-Becker. “In that moment, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll take it. Let’s go.’”
‘People are drawn to her’
“I would love to tell you that I thought she would be this good. I had no idea,” said Hamer.
In her time as a Bronc, Schein-Becker has rewritten the Rider record book, won an Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Indoor Championship for the 2022-23 season and etched her name into the upper echelon of the NCAA.
But it hasn’t always been records and recognition for Schein-Becker.
Despite being named to the MAAC cross country all-rookie first team in 2018, Schein-Becker competed sparingly during her first few years at Rider, often battling injuries, mental health and social distractions.
“I was just not having a good time,” said Schein-Becker. “My coach said, ‘If you really want to do this, you have to figure out how to prioritize and push away everything.”
Schein-Becker took her surplus of time during the COVID-19 pandemic to heal, train and reprioritize, and by 2021, she was a completely different person.
Running became her art.
In the last two years, Schein-Becker claimed six Rider records, currently holding the seventh-fastest 1500-meter, and 13th-fastest 800-meter times in the nation for the 2023 outdoor season.
As one of the team’s strongest competitors and its only graduate student, Schein-Becker has also taken on a leadership role for the Broncs.
“I think people are drawn to her,” said Hamer. “She has a vibe about her where people just want to be around her.”
Thinking back to that fork in the road, Schein-Becker was confident she chose correctly.
“I really enjoy this track that I’m going down. … I’ve learned a lot about who I want to be,” said Schein-Becker. “All my coaches were the most insightful people I’ve ever met. They’ve changed me as a person completely. I want to be that person for somebody.”
Luckily for Schein-Becker, when she isn’t flying around the track, she still finds time to let her imagination run wild. In her two-bedroom apartment, Schein-Becker converted one of the rooms into the art studio she’d always dreamed of having, complete with canvas, easel and cathartic creativity.
Schein-Becker described her artistic style as “forever evolving,” finding that her body of work lacks a common theme because she’s always growing as a person and trying new things.
“I feel so lifted. I’m back on my feet,” said Schein-Becker. “It’s sad that [art] became a hobby, because I always did dream of art school, but I’m living my dream right now too. I had two different dreams.”
At the Virginia Challenge, despite distractions, indecision and injuries, Schein-Becker crossed the finish line on April 21 and put up a strong performance against some of the country’s best, but the track star is never done improving her art.
“One of my high school coaches knew that I was all into the art program … and every race he would just compare running to art, because it is expression,” said Schein-Becker. “He said the phrase, ‘Paint this race as a picture; create the ending.’”
Schein-Becker finished first and broke her own 800-meter Rider record by more than five seconds.