Track and Field Club a training resource for variety of Whitman athletes

Matt Manley

Coming to Whitman as a dual-sport athlete in cross country and track, sophomore Katri Gilbert felt something missing her first spring at Whitman.

“In high school, I noticed a lot of the cross country runners did track and trained for most of the year. When I came to Whitman I was wondering, ‘Why don’t we have a track program?’ [Track] seemed like a natural thing to have, especially as a cross country runner,” Gilbert said.

Now, Gilbert is training all she wants in the spring, and helping others to do so as well: she is captain of the ASWC and SSRA-supported Track and Field Club, a group that promotes student competition in track and field through training and meet competition.

According to Gilbert, about 20 athletes were active in last year’s club, the majority of   whom were cross country athletes working to keep up their fitness base in the off season. The club is also advised by cross country coach Scott Shields, who provides coaching and workout programs to the club’s athletes.

With a number of cross country athletes on the team, club participant have traditionally competed primarily in distance events ranging from the 1500-meter to 10000-meter, as well as the 3000-meter steeplechase.

In addition to distance events, though, various athletes with track and field interest from other club and varsity sports have long been using the track and field club as an avenue for supplementary training.

“Track and field can be extremely beneficial as a complement to any other sports that you do. You can choose to work on speed, strength, agility or explosiveness, because there are speed, endurance, jumping and throwing events,” said Shields.

Last year’s team competed in one formal competition, the Sam Adams Classic at Whitworth, as well as completed a 100-kilometer relay event held by Washington State University in the spring. This year’s team, however, has a more ambitious schedule planned. According to Shields, the team will compete again at the Sam Adams Classic, as well as the Spike Arlt Invitational at Central Washington University and the Dwayne Hartman Invitational at Spokane Community College. These events all follow the varsity cross country team’s nontraditional season comprised of three events in March.

Gilbert and Shields are excited for a more active club this spring–and harbor hopes of one day bringing back track and field as a varsity sport at Whitman.

“In the ideal situation, to have a nationally competitive cross country program, you would have a varsity track program,” said Shields. “The timeline, though, is a big question mark.”

Skip Molitor, head of the club sports committee, says the club’s move to varsity status will depend on student interest and club activity.

“I see track as a club having a long-term vision of moving onto varsity status, but that depends on the vibrancy and participation levels in the club,” he said.

According to Shields, Track and Field Club has actually been in existence since the athletic department chose to discontinue track and field as a varsity sport in the late 1990s. Since then, the club’s activities have varied widely from year to year based on the level of commitment from participants.

This year, though, Gilbert aims to make the club as strong as it has ever been, recruiting campus-wide, especially among all varsity athletes, in order to expand the club.

“We are trying to reach out, especially to varsity athletes who are in off season because we know they want to train. We are trying to get the word out. I would really love by my senior year to have, if not a varsity track program, then a very strong club track program,” said Gilbert.