New team gives Hampshire student athletes a spring varsity sport for competition and training
Hampshire College recently competed in its first track season. Yes, Hampshire College now has a track program. The Track & Trail Running team began this year as a joint effort by student cross-country runners, Hampshire staff from OPRA (Outdoor Programs, Recreation, and Athletics), and other student athletes passionate about track.
“This is evidence of a student culture that’s excited and supportive of Hampshire’s involvement in competitive varsity sports,” says Brad King, the College’s athletic director. “Before this year, we didn’t have any spring sport in our athletic program.”
Track and Trail brings in students who hadn’t been part of the athletic program, and also enables winter and spring athletes to remain active and in training.
On the roster this spring were 25 students, led by head coach Eric Nazar and assistant coach Elena Betke-Brunswick. “Almost all of the cross-country team has been out and running, and a handful of other folks, some who did track in high school and some who are brand new to the sport and just learning,” says Nazar. “For me, this is an impressive first year, and we really want to be thoughtful about how we build the team.” Nazar says he believes Hampshire has the potential to do well in the "oddball" events — the ones other schools may view as alternative, such as the 5k and the 10k, the 3k steeple, and hurdles: “I think those are an opportunity for us as a track team,” he says.
But right now, the team is trying to stay oriented on logistics. There are a lot of things to figure out: how to make the best use of the facilities available, how collegiate track meets are run, what equipment they may still need, what events people want to run. “I already have a list, and it’s growing, of things we can change or improve for next year,” says Nazar. “The big thing, though, is staying positive with where we’re at, being able to stay in the process and focus on what we need to do today to be better tomorrow.”
Most schools have track and field, so why “Track & Trail”? The answer lies with the cross-country runners on the team who wanted to do more than just go around a track: running distance is better done through the woods and up mountains. For most people, a 10k on trails is a lot more fun than is simply doing 24 laps. Thus, the schedule for the season has been a combination of track meets, culminating in the USCAA Nationals in Delhi, N.Y., and trail races.
Being active is an intrinsic part of many of the track athletes’ lives. Div III student Leland Schon says it’s been exciting to watch Track & Trail coalesce. “I feel so fortunate to be part of the track team. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the cross-country and trail-running team,” he says. “It’s taught me that there’s no obstacle too big to overcome with the right mind-set.”
And that’s true. Five months ago a track-and-trail team was just an idea; already Hampshire students are scoring points at meets.
The last event of the trail runners’ season, which took place May 6, was the grueling Seven Sisters Trail Race, right in Hampshire’s backyard.
The team's final schedule and results are available here.