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Student track, cross country athletes say lack of funding hinders their performance

Track and cross country athlete Tony Nickerson, running the 800-meter event at the Weber State University track and cross country meet in Nov. 2018. Westminster College’s track and cross country team athletes are required to buy their own equipment and gear unlike other athletic teams on campus. (Photo courtesy Tony Nickerson)

Westminster’s track and cross country athletics said they need a bigger budget or at least a pair of decent running shoes.

Not only are they forced to train off-campus but, according to track and cross country athletes, they are also required to pass down equipment, provide their own shoes and compete against Division I teams while only recently being promoted to a Division II team.

“For the most part, we’re doing everything we can with the resources we were given,” said Aiden Urban, a sophomore member of the team.

In the past, track and cross country athletes had access to two to three pairs of Adidas shoes, according to marketing major and track and cross country athlete Tony Nickerson. Nickerson said the shoes were donated by assistant coach Taylor Penrod who had been a salesperson for Adidas. However, after receiving a promotion last year Penrod was no longer able to provide the team with free shoes.

According to Nickerson, having that same pair of shoes on every day for the length of the track season puts stress on muscles and tendons which hinders performance.

“We’ve had a lot of injuries this season and a lot of those are related to not having adequate shoes,” Nickerson said. “Running’s kind of a weird thing, you need to replace shoes every couple hundred miles and we’re putting in 60-miles a week sometimes, by the end of the season the shoes are worn out so then you start to get injuries.”

Most cushioning in shoes comes from EVA foam, a lightweight material injected with air cells designed to absorb impact. However, the foam eventually degrades and no longer absorbs the impact after consistent use. According to Men’s Health, the degradation can happen anywhere from 300 to 500 miles after the first wear. For track athletes, who do five three-mile runs per week, that comes out to a new pair every five to six months.

Nickerson said the team’s budget is one of the most discussed topics between track and cross country athletes.

“From what I know, we have the smallest athletics budget but one of the biggest teams on campus,” said Aiden Urban, a sophomore international business major. “We go three seasons while other teams go one to two.”

According to track and cross country athletes, not only are they struggling with running-related injuries but they are also forced to compete against schools outside of their division.

Westminster recently completed their transition to a National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II. Starting on Sept. 1, Westminster teams and student athletes were eligible to compete in postseason conferences and NCAA Division II championships.

Westminster College Track and cross country athletes compete at an outdoor meet at Utah State in 2018. Some athletes said are frustrated by their team’s small budget, lack of equipment and no help from the athletics department. (Photo courtesy Tony Nickerson)

Though this transition was supposed to be a big step for Westminster’s athletics program and for student athletes, track and cross country athletes said because of their low budget, they’re still not able to compete against teams in their same division.

“Yes, it sucks that we don’t get the budget that other teams get or the luxuries that come with a bigger budget such as loads of gear, and getting to fly and travel,” said sophomore track and cross country athlete Katie Scott. “But because we don’t have the money to travel outside of Utah we don’t get to compete with teams in our conference, let alone our division.”

Scott said that the inability to compete against teams within their own conference or region until championships separates the track and cross country teams from other athletic teams at Westminster.

“This not only hinders our performance greatly but it also ruins any chances of us being able to receive rankings and predictions,” Scott said. “In order to receive rankings, you need to be racing inside the division you belong.”

Some track and cross country athletes said they put in a lot of work for their sport and feel frustrated by what they said was little to no attention from the athletics department.

“Members of the team are putting in the work and the effort waking up at 7 a.m.,” Aiden Urban said. “We’re doing everything correctly and if the school isn’t giving us the materials to succeed then they don’t want us to succeed.”

Director of Athletics Shay Wyatt did not respond to requests for comment.

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Mackenzie Quarry
Mackenzie is a junior communication major and minor in business management who can either be found at the gym or at home watching “Game of Thrones.” Kenzie likes to take on more than she can handle at times but will always find a way to get the job done.

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    I am an alumni of Westminster College (2017) and a former Track/XC athlete and I can confirm that funding is not a new issue for the team. During my Freshman and Sophomore year, we oftentimes had to squeeze up to 15 people into 12 passenger vans for meets anywhere from northern Idaho to South Dakota. Come my Junior and Senior year, we finally started getting buses to go to some of our more distant meets but only at the expense of other accommodations such as hotels and food. Myself and other older athletes were often asked to carpool to local meets in lieu of renting vans or buses. As this article mentions, we were able to get pretty decent shoes and team clothing but really only thanks to Coach Taylor’s association with Adidas.
    Over all, I never felt much support from the school or the athletic department. Media attention only grew slightly when the school began transitioning to the NCAA. Shay Wyatt always acted really stoked for the team and our improvements but no tangible actions came from that excitement. All of the pictures used in association with meet write ups were taken by myself and other teammates on our phones when we were out supporting each other at races, or pulled from our Instagram page run by Coach Taylor.
    The Track/XC program is still relatively new (I think its first year was 2011-12) compared to other athletic programs on campus and I understand building a program and recruiting athletes is very difficult and takes a while. However I believe that the lack of funding this team received while I competed and is still receiving is absolutely hindering the growth of the program tenfold. Not only do Track/XC athletes compete year round (XC season is Fall, Indoor Track is Winter, Outdoor Track is Spring), the team is the biggest on campus but it has continually received one of the smallest budgets. I think it’s about time the Westminster Athletic Dept. stepped up and supported this team once and for all. Whatever excuses that can be given for the treatment of the team, collegiate athletes work hard and strive to improve themselves as athletes, as students, and as productive members of society. Westminster ought to do the same.

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