Despite difficult approval process, new running club joins campus

At its meeting last Wednesday, College Council (CC) approved a new running club, the Purple Valley Track Club.

The group was formed partly in response to cuts made this year to the men’s and women’s indoor track and field teams.

Though track has not made cuts in the past few years, many runners who ran cross country were cut this year. According to women’s track and field Head Coach Nate Hoey, roster limits forced the team to cut runners.

“We can’t fund a team larger than 55 girls, and only 40 can travel to each meet,” co-captain Laura Lee ’17 said.

Many runners resolved to continue to train together, despite being cut from the varsity team. The group began informally as a way for cross country runners not on the track team to train in the offseason.

“Even without track, the folks who got cut knew we’d be training together everyday,” club president John Spence ’19 said.

However, the club’s mission has been refined as the group has developed. Spence realized that many cross country runners have extensive knowledge of local trails and that this knowledge could be useful to other students who want to run but do not know of places to go near campus.

“No one on campus knows more about running or about where to run in Williamstown than the cross country team,” he said. “We thought we’d make ourselves an official group and open ourselves up to the rest of the school.”

John Spence ’19 tabled in Paresky to attract new runners to his developing club at the College.
John Spence ’19 tabled in Paresky to attract new runners to his developing club at the College. Janeth Rodriguez/Photo editor.

The club is now open to all runners regardless of prior experience. Around half of its 65 members are cross country runners. Spence plans to compete in several club meets and road races this year.

Despite the club’s inclusive mission, the approval process was far from simple. CC was concerned at first that participation would drop during the cross country season, since most of the early members were on the cross country teams. As a result, CC tabled the club and urged Spence to consult Associate Director for Student Athlete Services Carolyn Miles. In addition, CC required that the club make an effort to recruit members not on the team.

“We didn’t feel comfortable about funding the cross country team in its offseason,” CC representative Maria Heredia ’20 commented on Council’s review process.

Once the club started advertising across campus, however, concerns emerged about NCAA policies that regulate varsity and non-varsity athletic groups. Since many of the club’s members are out of season varsity athletes, CC had to ensure that racing in the offseason would not hinder athletes’ eligibility or “land cross country in hot water,” Spence said.

He added that Miles, cross country Head Coach Peter Farwell ’73, Assistant Coach Dusty Lopez ’01, Assistant Coach Nick Lehman and Athletic Director Lisa Melendy helped the club modify its vision and win approval: “They all helped us come up with the vision of the club and turn it into a reality.”

After much consideration, CC voted 21-0-1 to approve the club without funding it. The club is still seeking funding to cover entry fees for meets and races, Spence said. Seven club members attended the Greater Boston Track Club Invitational at Harvard on Sunday, paying their own entry fees.