Running Out of Excuses: Skidmore’s Lack of a Varsity Track Team
Skidmore College boasts 19 Varsity Men’s and Women’s Athletic teams that have won a combined 83 Conference Championships and nine National Championships. The Williamson Sports Center is complete with a six-lane pool with an indoor diving well, racquetball courts, an indoor gym with three basketball/volleyball courts, nine tennis courts, various fitness and weight rooms, a dedicated athletic performance laboratory, a dedicated field for soccer and lacrosse teams, and an all-weather track. So how is it, that even with all these various features, Skidmore still does not have a varsity track and field team?
Rik Scarce, a professor of Sociology, has been working on a feature length documentary about long-distance barefoot running for the past year. When asked why we do not have an official varsity track and field Team, he replied, “Well officially the reason why we don’t have one is because it costs a lot of money to field a new team. There’s a secondary reason that I’ve also heard, which is that we also don’t have an NCAA officially-sized track.”
While the school’s track may be undersized, Skidmore did in fact renovate Wachenheim Field around two years ago, and had every opportunity to re-size the track then. Additionally, Skidmore would not be required to host any track meets so, the smaller size should not provide any legitimate concerns. Scarce added, “there’s a lot of great runners who’ve come to this campus, and some of them have even tried to advocate for a track and field team but it hasn’t worked out.”
One of those very students is Jordan Alvarez ’20, who captained his high school track and field team for four years. During that time he qualified for both State and National Championship Events as a sprinter. Alvarez previously tried to set up a varsity team here at Skidmore. However, he was told by the athletics department that the school “did not have the money or the resources for a track team.” Additionally, he was told there were scheduling and safety concerns associated with the idea, as school policy states that no runners are allowed to be on the track when sports teams are practicing.
Yet this safety protocol is very often not enforced. Spend enough time watching the track, and onlookers will notice many students run around the track to work out in their free time even while other practices are going on. Other Liberty League schools that have track and field teams such as Vassar, Union, St. Lawrence, Bard, and Hamilton all counter this safety dilemma by placing nets around the field to protect runners from any flying objects from other practices. Alvarez stated that he proposed that Skidmore also use these nets, as they are a very widely used and inexpensive option. However, school officials rejected the idea.
While Jordan is only a short distance sprinter, long distance runners on campus also have had difficulties setting up a cross-country varsity team. Scarce mentioned that “while we’re in a great location for [cross-country] training, and in an incredible location for racing, in order to have a cross-country team we must first have a track and field team. The idea being that student-athletes would need to be able to run in both the fall and spring semesters.”
Skidmore is joined by both Clarkson University and Hobart & William Smith College as the only three Liberty League schools to not have a varsity track and field team. Alvarez believes that the lack of a team here is a significant problem. He says that, “Track is an all-inclusive sport. You don’t necessarily have to be very athletic to do it.”
The myriad of different events it offers and the health benefits running can provide help the sport attract a wide variety of students. These features typically make track and field teams some of the largest and most popular sports teams at many schools around the country. In fact, a Business Insider article from 2017 listed that over 1,675 total schools around the country have outdoor track and field teams. Which made outdoor track the sixth most common collegiate sports program in America. Surprisingly, cross-country actually took the second spot with over 2,065 schools with official programs (click here to see what other sports ranked).
Scarce says that, “While it would be wonderful to have a team. It does cost a lot of money, and until somebody comes up with those funds to perhaps endow either a track and field or even a cross-country squad, we won’t have one.”
Meanwhile, Alvarez continues to hold out hope. “It makes me so frustrated that we don’t have a team. I do still try to run in my free time, but being a sprinter, running is not the same without a coach or a team. However, if we could have a team by my senior year I would be so happy.”