March 29, four former University of Richmond men's track and field athletes placed in the top ten in Collegiate Running Association's first 10-kilometer Road Race National Championship.
CRA is a non-profit organization that hosts championship races in which any runner enrolled in at least one college course in the United States can compete for prize money. CRA hosted its first race as part of the 2014 Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K. Twelve hundred collegiate runners competed in the 10K as registered members of CRA, said Steve Taylor, Richmond's men's cross-country coach and co-founder of CRA.
Among CRA members, sophomore Matt McKenna placed fifth, senior Adam Owens placed seventh, senior Patrick Love placed ninth and senior Ryan Lee placed 10th.
This bittersweet success came after the men's track and field team was cut in September 2012 so that the university could add a varsity lacrosse team and still comply with Title IX regulations.
Most Division I, II and III long-distance runners compete three seasons a year: cross-country in the fall, indoor track in the winter and outdoor track in the spring.
Taylor said the elimination of the men's track program pushed him to keep his athletes and other collegiate runners in similar situations competing outside of the cross-country season. In October, he and Jon Molz, the assistant women's track and field coach at Richmond, founded the CRA. The CRA currently has 1,400 members.
"Without track and field to look forward to anymore, our guys are able to train specifically for this race and maybe win a little bit of money to make it seem like it's worthwhile," Molz said.
Taylor said the CRA aimed to provide competition opportunities for all types of collegiate runners including varsity athletes, students who are pursuing an additional degree after college, students who may not have the time to compete at the varsity level and students who do not have a track team at their university.
"The chance to win prize money is so amazing for college students, especially teams like us and other schools that have had their team stripped from them," McKenna said.
Sports Backers, a Richmond area non-profit organization that advocates for athletics, provided $10,000 to be used as prize money in the CRA's race, Taylor said.
McKenna, the top finisher among university runners, won $600 Saturday, $300 for placing fifth among runners in the CRA and another $300 for being the second-fastest runner overall who trains in the Richmond area.
"I don't think about it [prize money] while I'm training because as a college student I'd like to see myself get better over time and do it for the pure gratification," McKenna said. "But the thought of prize money didn't hurt during the race." McKenna said he was motivated to stay in fifth place when he realized dropping a place meant losing $100.
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"The prize money is just as good, if not a better incentive to get me out the door to run each morning," Owens said.
McKenna said he planned to use his prize money to cover some of the basic expenses of running such as paying for gas when he drives to run at off-campus trails on the weekends.
Owens said the CRA was a way to gain support and spread awareness in the running community for how the track team was cut at Richmond. He said professors at the university and people in the greater Richmond community were impressed by how well his teammates placed in the race.
"I think it keeps the pressure on the administration when we do things like this," Owens said. "To prove to the community and our professors and everything that we are well-meaning and that we should have a track team back."
The CRA's next race is its Mountain Running National Championship at the Loon Mountain Race in Lincoln, N.H., July 6.
Contact Collegian Reporter Brennan Long at firstname.lastname@example.org
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