When Katie Stanford came to Covenant College four and a half years ago to coach cross country, she had a vision for starting a track and field program at Covenant, but it wasn’t until September that the first proposal for that vision was approved by the college.
Covenant has had a Cross Country team since its move to Lookout Mountain in 1965 and over the past five decades, students, coaches, and administrators have all expressed interest in adding a track and field team, but nothing had ever come of it.
Prior to Stanford, no coach pushed as hard as her to start a track and field program here at Covenant. The process took over one and a half years from submitting the proposal to the actual approval and announcement of a team.
The original proposal was submitted with four phases in order to start a team. Phase 1 was the addition of long and middle distance runners. Phase 2 was adding sprinters to the team and an assistant sprint coach. The plan for Phase 3 was adding field events, and finally Phase 4 would be building a track on Covenant’s campus.
Currently, phase 1 and 2 were combined with the addition of both middle, long distance runners, and sprinters to the team.
These phases were constructed to show the process of starting a team and that the addition of a track team was possible. There is currently no specific time or deadline for these phases to be complete.
Covenant’s Track and Field program will only consist of an outdoor track. Although Covenant will not have indoor track as an official sport, the team will participate in indoor meets. Covenant belongs to the USA South Conference, but it does not sponsor track and field so there is no conference meet to qualify as a team for nationals. However, individual athletes are able to qualify for nationals by getting a qualifying time for runners or marks for jumps and throws.
There will be no new full-time coaches or assistants added to the program yet. Coach Stanford said that she “wants to see progress with the program before a new track coach or assistant is hired.” It is possible that there will be volunteers helping the team next spring.
Coach Stanford did request training blocks in the budget as new equipment for the team. The track team will only have running events in its first year so there will not be shot put, hurdles, or pole vaulting. Therefore, no additional track equipment will be needed for the time being.
Covenant does not currently have a track, but Coach Stanford asserted that it would not be necessary. Practices will mostly be held on campus on trails, fields, and the weight room. The distance team is able to run and get in their mileage on campus and the sprinters will use the intramural and shadowland field for practice.
Coach Stanford said that there will definitely be hill practices on campus, and once or twice a week the team will be down the mountain for practice on tracks at Chattanooga Christian School and Dade County School.
In regards to recruitment, Coach Stanford said that the addition of the team has resulted in numerous prospective students contacting her with a lot of interest and excitement. Normally, students are recruited in their sophomore and junior seasons because by their senior seasons, students have already committed. Therefore, Stanford has not begun recruiting yet because the track season has not started. When meets begin and results are published for runners, the recruiting process for Covenant’s track team will begin.
In the team’s first year, Coach Stanford hopes to have 12-15 men and 12-15 women on the team. By next year, she anticipates the team having 20 men and 20 women. She also said the team is open to jumpers practicing and competing in events, but not throwing, hurdles, or pole vault as of yet. In the future, Covenant will be open to adding these events, but not in its first year.
Not only will this program open opportunities for more runners, it will also greatly help Covenant’s cross country team by making them stronger runners. Since track is in the spring season, this gives cross country runners the opportunity to train year round, as well as adding a double competition season.
In this 2016 spring season, Covenant’s new track team will begin practicing and going to meets for the first time. Due to an increased interest in sprinters, Coach Stanford decided that sprinters will also be participating in these events.
This spring long distance runners, middle-distance runners and sprinters will be competing in 3 track meets. Stanford is calling this first spring a “trial run” and will give runners the opportunity to train and compete.