Distance track comes to Whitman

Ryder Brookes, Staff Reporter

After undergoing a multi-year approval process, Whitman’s newest varsity sport, distance track, will begin its first season this spring to the excitement of cross country athletes.

When asked about how distance track became approved, junior Ellie Chidsey credited cross country team members senior Whitney Rich, junior Maamoon Saleh and their coaches with leading the charge to have Whitman approve a program coached by Scott Shields and Neal Christopherson.

Even though the creation of the distance track team was headed by the cross country team, the two sports are very different. In cross country, athletes run over natural terrain for a single race while distance track athletes run on indoor and outdoor tracks for multiple events. These multiple events include races anywhere from the 1500m sprint to a 10k endurance event.

The establishment of distance track at Whitman has huge implications for the year-round cross country season, explained sophomore Julia Hess.

“Having [distance track] be a varsity sport allows us to have a longer season with the support of our coaches, to use varsity athlete resources like the Sherwood weight room and to qualify for the NWC championships and Nationals,” Hess said.

With anticipation high among the team for the brand new sport and the approaching season, practices are occurring more frequently. Senior Kristen Wanke emphasized the intensity of the sport and how much time the team puts into practice.

“Our practice schedule will look a lot like it already does in the spring and almost exactly like the fall cross country season. We will practice six days a week and compete at three meets in April plus the NWC meet for those who qualify,” Wanke said.

Although distance track and cross country are different, they are also two closely related sports with a nearly identical roster for both teams, leading to a year-long commitment for athletes.

While distance track and cross country are both intensive, time-involved sports, Whitties do have the opportunity to join both these teams. 

“If someone is seriously interested in the typically, year-long commitment of running cross country and distance track they should talk to our coach Scott Shields,” Hess said.

The establishment of distance track at Whitman has been a long time coming for a lot of cross country athletes, keeping them motivated to stay in shape. Hess emphasized the importance of this change.

“Our coaches and past and present teammates have been working for years to make this happen,” Hess said. “We would like to thank the Athletic Director Kim Chandler for advocating for us and to Kathy Murray and the administration for their support.”

When asked about what she envisions the team’s impact on the Whitman community to be, Wanke described the larger impact the implementation of this program will have.

“We also hope that we can impact/incorporate Whitman and the broader Walla Walla community through the events we will host across the season, including an all-city track meet and kids’ track camp,” Wanke said.

With the first season on the horizon, the team said they are both nervous and hopeful to start Whitman’s distance track program on a good note.