By Simon Rollins, Staff Writer
The University’s first outdoor track and field team began its much anticipated season this past week with many anxious athletes looking forward to the spring. Coach Scott Hutchinson, a former USM coach with 29 years of experience in the sport, will command the men’s and women’s squads as each depart from the former status of ‘club sport.’
In February of this year, Julie Davis, the school’s athletic director, announced that track and field would be added to UMF’s athletic listing for the 2015-2016 season. Now, in December, as snow directs students inside and away from the cold, the outdoor season is officially underway.
With outdoor track and field commencing at the varsity level, indoor track and field, the initial organization that Sean Cabaniss and Josh Wynne spearheaded as president and vice president, respectively in the fall of 2012, still remains a club. “When Josh and I first started the program we wanted something to be varsity,” said Cabaniss, “But Indoor is still gonna happen.
Indoor track and field and outdoor track and field are similar in nature, but are comprised of slightly different events. In an indoor setting, the oval running track is half the size of a 400 meter outdoor track. To accommodate for the smaller space, certain events are scaled down and some are omitted completely, such as discus and javelin.
Though the sports are virtually identical, the indoor squad has yet to obtain a varsity ranking like its counterpart. “The biggest reason that outdoor has become a varsity sport first is because the North Atlantic Conference has seen an emergence of numerous outdoor varsity programs within the last few years,” said Wynne in an email interview. By becoming varsity we are now able to join the other programs.” Students looking to compete in weatherproof indoor track events like the 55 meter hurdles or the 60 meter sprint will have to wait until the conference experiences a collective surge of interest. “With indoor, there’s not enough teams in the NAC who have that varsity indoor program. So maybe at some point when that happens, we’ll become varsity.”
The Indoor Track and Field Club is comprised, mainly, of the same athletes that make up the Varsity Outdoor Track Team. The technical difference between the two is funding sources.
Program funds for Indoor Track come from Student Senate, while Outdoor Track is financed by the Athletic Department, like other varsity sports. Even with separate funders, though, the teams share much of the same equipment, core athletes, and coaching.
Wynne, Cabaniss, and Hutchinson are all looking forward to a strong outdoor season as the first official season in UMF history, but still hope to make strides in the indoor track world as well. “I want to put both programs on the map,” said Hutchinson.