Track and field and cross-country are underrepresented sports at Dixie State University.
As DSU enters its first year as a Division I school, DSU Athletics could do a better job of recognizing running as a sport. While pre-pandemic football brought students together over tailgates and homecoming games, other sports sat quietly in the back.
Some students I have spoken to have told me they weren’t aware we had a cross-country team.
According to a report from the NCAA, there are over 480,000 NCAA athletes, with 43,217 of those being male cross-country and track and field athletes and 45,950 of those being female cross-country and track and field athletes. With these estimations, the only sports with more participants were football and baseball.
Even with these high estimates, running seems to be the underappreciated sport that has much to offer to both athletes and spectators.
Coach and athlete Helena Wu, who writes for Breaking Muscle, said running is at the core of every sport. Before football and baseball were ever a concept, running was the first sport to ever exist and has stayed constant throughout time. The basic form of running was used for modes of traveling and even hunting and gathering food to survive.
“The very basis of our existence, therefore, lies in the humble skill of running really fast,” Wu said in an article. “All sports require this function.”
Running is the basis of practically every sport besides golf, so we should be appreciating it that much more. Our track and field student-athletes have had record-breaking seasons and events and deserve the spotlight as much as football and basketball.
Recently, there has been attention on football and basketball team game schedules, and on student-athletes who have signed onto the basketball and volleyball teams at DSU. All the while there has been no mention of the upcoming season for the women’s track and field team or the cross-country team.
While DSU student-athletes have broken records in running, DSU is just now getting its own head coach for track and field, separate from the cross-country coaching staff.
This new start to a Division I era brings about the new hiring of Derrick Atkins, head coach of women’s track and field. With his new position, Atkins takes the pressure off Justin Decker, head coach of cross-country, who previously had to coach both teams.
Atkins said, “I spoke to the girls on Sunday, and they said they’re looking for structure.”
With the opportunity Atkins has been given to teach a fairly new women’s track and field team, he can really start to push these student-athletes above and beyond. This could open up more people to the possibilities running has as a sport and potentially increase the appreciation for the sport as a whole.
Through this DI transition, there is going to be a bigger spotlight on athletics overall. Take the time to look into the work cross-country and track and field athletes put in. You may just find a new sport you’re passionate about.