End of track team brings new era
Inside Saint Mary's Sports
Any ending is a difficult thing, often presenting the feelings of uncertainty and sadness. Endings, however, do bring one very important thing to life — new beginnings.
Last Wednes-day, Saint Mary's athletic director Lynn Kachmarik announced to the public that the Saint Mary's track and field team would be discontinued following the 2002 season. As cliché as it may sound, the ending of this team may mark the beginning of a new era in athletics.
I applaud the administration of Saint Mary's. I know making this decision required months of debate. The athletic director and the president of the College have both expressed their deep regret that this decision had to be made, but they also made it clear that it was a necessary one.
In the last three years, the Saint Mary's athletic department has made some very important choices geared to move the program in a competitive direction — including hiring a full-time basketball coach, improving facilities, and making a trainer available year-round. The program seems to be moving in the right direction, but it could only do so much.
In order to participate in the MIAA, the athletic department must be fueled by more money to hire full-time coaches. Although many of the coaches at Saint Mary's would work for free, in order to bring the program to a truly competitive level, salaries have to go up.
In addition to coaching, facilities need some help. The Regina pool is not large enough to support large-scale practices, let alone competitions. The College lacks a track, and uniforms and training equipment must be constantly replaced. No one can expect a program with resources as limited as they are to provide adequately.
Money plays a very important role in just about every aspect of college. Administrators need to have money to expand the campus, students need to have the personal funds to pay tuition and still be able to go out on Saturday nights, and athletic directors have to have enough money to build a reputable athletic program. Saint Mary's athletics fell short on the funding end, and the response was the dissolution of the track program.
Why choose to end the track program? Why couldn't the athletic department get the money from somewhere else? Where is tuition money going? These are all questions that have been on the minds and on the lips of track athletes and track supporters since last week's announcement.
I understand how it feels to work very hard for something that gets set aside. I sympathize with the athletes who have spent so much of their time here at Saint Mary's working to participate for the Belles by running and taking part in field events. However, the betrayal these athletes feel will — in the end — become a testimonial to the idea that sacrifices and endings can bring about new beginnings.
It is difficult to get past the present feelings of hurt and disappointment, but if we can take a moment and look at the future, we can see that this decision was the right one. With the limited amount of money that will now funnel into the department instead of going to the track team, Saint Mary's could hire another coach, improve swimming facilities or spend some more time recruiting athletes. Benefiting from these new opportunities, the program will have the ability to grow and bear the fruits of victory. A successful athletics program will be better able to truly give back to the athletes making sacrifices in order to support their school.
The future of Saint Mary's sports looks bright when we see the possibilities this program cut opens up. Five or 10 years down the road, the team may be back and running on a beautiful, class-A track and leaping over brand new hurdles, instead of hurdling money issues.
It is time to take a step back and see this decision as a step forward. This may be the ending of a team, but it is the beginning of an era. The administration, athletic staff and athletes deserve a round of applause for making and accepting the difficult decision that can vault Saint Mary's athletics into the 21st century.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, February 6, 2001