By Courtney Fowler, Staff Reporter and Marissa Rush, Staff Writer
The University of Maine, Farmington (UMF) Track and Field Club has officially become a varsity level sport for the first time in the university’s history.
For two years now, since the fall of 2012, the track club has been working hard to document their progress and report to the athletic department to advocate in becoming a varsity level sport. “We tried many times in the past to become more than just a club on campus,” said President Sean Cabaniss. “Every time, though, we were told that it would never happen.”
However, through persistence and dedication, the team has finally reached their goal. “It was a long process,” said Assistant President Josh Wynne. “We documented everything over the past two years, proved we had funding, and reported on how our athletes were doing during each meet.” In the time since the club began, membership has increased each year and is now at a total of thirty athletes. UMF is investing $91,000 in the track team, and will also get a multi-sport trainer. The trainer will not be exclusive for the track team, but will provide other sports teams with coverage as well.
The team hopes that with their varsity level status, they will grow even more. “Not only will this impact our campus in a positive way,” Cabaniss said, “but it will boost enrollment of the team and increase retention rate.”
Kayla Girardin, a new member of the track team said that she likes track even though she just started track this season. “I like track because I get to compete, and I get a good workout” said Girardin. “I’m very happy for the team. I’m excited to see that the team has grown in just three years”.
Since 2012, the club has competed on a varsity level even without the official title. Wynne took initiative to contact other coaches in the area to see if the UMF club team could participate in meets.
“I always tried to contact coaches throughout Maine and New England so we could compete against varsity teams,” Wynne said. “If we wanted to be a varsity team, we needed the exposure and higher level of competition.” The team has competed against Saint Joseph’s, Colby, Bates, Bowdoin, Regis College, and plan to attend a meet at Tufts University this weekend.
While finding competition has never been a problem for the team, what they are most looking forward to is competing for the NAC Championship. “As a club sport, we were never able to compete in conference meets,” said Wynne. “I think personally, I’m most looking forward to achieving that title.” Even though they are officially varsity status, the team will not be competing for the NAC title until spring of 2016.
As founders of the original club in 2012, Cabannis and Wynne are thrilled to see how much progress they have made. “We actually got interviewed right when we started the club in 2012 and we thought that was a big deal!” said Wynne. “It’s finally come full circle.”
The track team is certainly proud to be recognized as varsity level and only see positive things for the future of their sport at UMF. “We always knew it was the right thing,” said Cabannis. “Now that it’s official, we can only get better from here.”