Training center marks U rebuilding effort

By By Tye Smith

By Tye Smith

With a little bit of help, the U track program has overcome serious working constraints to accomplish impressive results over the last couple of seasons.

The U does not have track facilities for the athletes, which has forced them to use training locations that are not on campus. Additionally, the track program is not fully funded by the university, which means that coaches end up dividing a few allocated scholarships among several athletes.

“[Lack of] scholarships and facilities are the biggest things we have to overcome to bring in the powerhouse athletes,” head track coach Lisa Archer said. “But a lot of our recruits are looking past those limitations.”

The team currently practices its outdoor events and holds meets at East High School’s facility in Salt Lake City. This location has never been much of a problem considering that it is only about five blocks from the U.

More problematic has been the fact that, prior to last year, the U track team had no indoor facilities. Thanks to the 2002 Winter Olympics, an oval was built in Kearns which has now become the practice and home meet facility for the Utes.

Kearns may not seem like an ideal location for athletes who attend the U, but it hasn’t posed the problems that one might expect.

“It really is not a disadvantage or a major time conflict,” Archer said. In fact, “it’s actually created more support of a team environment, more communication and more team bonding-so it’s worked very well for us.”

Archer also noted that the Kearns facility has “given us a home place to train that all of us can train at-including sprinters, jumpers and distance people.”

Archer and cross country coach Brian Appell are looking forward to the team chemistry that should come with regular trips to the Kearns site.

Another issue facing the U squad is the problem of fielding a full men’s team. This has been difficult in the past as a result of Title IX restrictions. According to Appell, the fact that football takes up such a large number of scholarships means that it would be impossible to provide enough scholarships for a full men’s team.

The arrival of head football coach Urban Meyer has been a welcome one for the future of the men’s track team.

“Urban Meyer has been a very positive influence in the decision to utilize some of the football players to come into the program,” Appell said. He explained that the previous football coaching staff was not supportive of their players participating on the track team. “We’re taking a step in the right direction,” Appell said.

Archer is confident the school’s administration will continue to support the growth of the men’s team.

“In the past, there have been some limitations with numbers,” Archer said. “But now we’re able to expand a little bit and we’d like to field a full men’s team.”

The direction of the track and cross country programs during the last few years has been extremely positive. Coming off their best seasons ever, the Utes think the future looks bright.

“Since we got hired, the last couple of years, the athletic department has been very supportive to acknowledge our limitations and to try to help us improve funding and scholarships,” Archer said. “We’re still moving toward being fully funded, and we’re almost there.”

Appell is equally confident the program will continue to grow and thrive in the face of obvious limitations. “Despite these so-called limitations, we can run a successful program here,” Appell said. “Is it ideal? No. But its doable.”

Evidence of the growth and increased recruiting abilities of the U track team can be seen in the quality of two of this year’s incoming athletes.

Nick McKay, a prep standout from St. Joseph’s High School, is already running times that are comparable to the best runners at the U. The coaches are understandably excited, considering that McKay was widely regarded as the best high school runner in the state during his senior campaign.

On the women’s side, new recruit Amanda Feigt should make an immediate impact in the 400 meter run and the long jump. During high school, Feigt was considered to be one of the top female athletes in the state. Not only did she participate in track and field events, but she was also a top-flight soccer player.

The recent changes have had dramatic effects on the program, and both coaches are excited for the new season. Archer pointed to the chance of hosting indoor meets at the Kearns facility and a newly expanded men’s team as reasons for enthusiasm. “I think those two things will be huge turning points in the future of the program.”

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