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As collegiate track and field programs get axed in the midst of the COVID-19 economic recession, the New England independent running brand Tracksmith announced last week the launch of virtual race in which profits will go to support those running programs facing expulsion.
The Alumni Championship
The Alumni Championship is open to athletes 18 and over from around the globe and aimed at reigniting competitive spirit. Runners are invited to choose their college affiliation and run a two-mile race on a track or road sometime between October 31 and November 8. Prizes (Tracksmith gift cards) will be awarded based on fastest men and women, open, masters and teams.
“Whether you ran in college or not, whether you’re in fighting shape or fighting to get back into it, we invite you to join fellow alumni and fans for a two-mile race and ultimate bragging rights,” said Tracksmith Athlete Experience Manager Nick Willis in a press release. “With no collegiate championships until March, this is as close as we’ll get to crowning a 2020 champ.”
Saving College Running Programs
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, American universities have been under financial strain. NCAA cross country and track programs were already in a precarious position, and now as athletic departments take a closer look at their budget to make cuts, these are often the first programs brought to the chopping block. For example, earlier this fall Minnesota’s Board of Regents voted to eliminate the University of Minnesota Men’s Track and Field program. (After loud public outcry, the outdoor track and field program was saved from the cuts.) Other track programs recently cut include those at the Central Michigan University, the College of William & Mary, and Appalachian State University.
Profits from the Alumni Championship virtual race will go to establishing a fund to support college track and field programs facing elimination by athletic departments under financial pressure. The funds will be used to equip running programs with the tools and strategic framework they may need to build their case to protect track and field. This includes current efforts, led by athlete and Princeton track alumnus Russel Dinkins, to support the William & Mary track team’s fight to be reinstated, as well as other programs facing similar challenges in the future. Dinkins led a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured Brown University Athletics to reinstate its men’s track program.
“Cutting collegiate track and field programs weakens the foundation of our sport and harms some of our most promising athletes at the pinnacle of their careers,” said Matt Taylor, Tracksmith founder and CEO. “Track and field remains one of the most accessible sports for youth and young adults of all races and backgrounds. Decisions like these have ramifications for running that must be addressed head on before it’s too late. Now is the time to act and support programs in jeopardy and establish a precedent to protect against future cuts.”