The men’s cross-country team has added four new members to its roster this season, despite challenges that emerged with the removal of the men’s track and field program in 2012.
In 2010, the men’s cross-country team placed 24th at the NCAA National Championship, achieving the highest ranking of any cross-country season in University of Richmond's history.
Then came what current cross-country coach Stephen Taylor refers to as “The Decision.”
The university’s board of trustees held a meeting September 2012, and made the decision to cut all support and funding for both indoor and outdoor men’s track and field. This made cross-country the sole opportunity for men to compete in NCAA events for running. The decision to cut the program resulted in the loss of an entire recruiting class and numerous members of the team opting to transfer to schools that would offer more opportunities.
The ramifications of this decision are still felt when the brass from the cross-country department looks to recruit new members. “With the decision to eliminate indoor track, it’s put us in a spiral of trying to find athletes who would still have an interest in competing in a cross-country-only program,” Taylor said.
Deciding to overlook these limitations, four members of the class of 2018 are now on the roster of Richmond’s cross-country team. These four athletes come to Richmond, not on athletic scholarships, but as paying students who were recruited to both enroll at the university and compete as Division I athletes.
“We want athletes to come here to get their education. … However, what we find is that those athletes we are aiming to recruit instead chose to go to Georgetown, Princeton or Duke and get an equal education with the opportunity to compete in all three sports,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the difficulty with recruiting should not take away from the four runners who did decide to come to Richmond.
Taylor spoke highly of the new recruits, Jack Chintala, Johnny Hogue, Ryan Lerda and Alex Lucking, referring to them as “the future.”
These four, along with many others from around the country, received similar phone calls from Richmond coaches offering them a spot on the roster. When it was revealed that it would only be for the cross-country season, many refused to keep talking.
When asked to explain why they continued speaking with Richmond coaches after the initial phone call, Chintala and Hogue said the academic reputation of a school like Richmond outweighed the loss of the track program.
“The smaller learning environment had a big impact on my decision to attend UR,” Hogue said.
If this year’s recruiting class is any indication, the cross-country program will continue to attract new members, thanks to the university’s academic renown.
Yet explaining to recruits that there will only be a fall season of a year-round sport has already turned runners away from the university and the team. For this reason, some members of the cross-country program hold on to the idea that one day, as Hogue puts it, Richmond “will bring back track.”
Contact Collegian Reporter Gabriel Obregon at firstname.lastname@example.org