Beyond the tennis courts and baseball diamonds, hidden from view of the everyday passerby, lays Castleton State College’s most beautiful athletic facility. Here, anyone can escape the dimensional constrictions of the soccer fields and basketball courts, not to mention the gazing eyes of onlookers. Folks, welcome to the home of Spartan cross country. The cross country trails, located mainly to the south of Glenbrook Gymnasium and the outdoor athletic fields, are made up of eight kilometers of weaving and winding landscape. They are well groomed and maintained, primarily by the men’s and women’s cross-country teams and coaching staff, and offer an excellent place for long distance competition.
However, despite everything that the trails have to offer, there is something missing. There is something missing that keeps anxious legs at bay when the fall season is over and the spring trails are too muddy to run. Cross-country and recreational runners alike are wondering: where is the track?
While Castleton does have a very competitive cross-country team, the college offers no indoor or outdoor track and field for men and women. One person is trying mightily to change this.
Blair Marelli is entering his third year as the cross country team’s head coach, and is a man that wears many hats. Not only is he the cross country coach, he also maintains the athletic fields and the trails themselves. He is currently trying to expand the program, and is attempting to create an indoor/outdoor track and field team for the college.
As the coach, he has encountered a struggle in recruiting athletes for the team. He cites the heart of the problem as Castleton’s lack of track and field facilities.
“Our trails are great. I’d say they are some of the best trails that you’ll find at colleges around here,” Marelli said, acknowledging the effort that both his athletes and the physical plant put into their pristine condition. “But it’s really hard to recruit good runners when that’s all you have to offer.”
According to Marelli, good runners are more likely to attend a college with either an indoor or outdoor track, or both. Since Castleton currently has no track and field program, cross country runners are restricted to 2 months of training a year.
“Our season last year went from August 18 to November 4,” said Marelli. “Other schools that have track and field teams can train for 10 months out of the year.”
When plans were first made for the new Spartan Stadium, Marelli took the opportunity to research the funds that would be needed to put a track around the athletic field. He compiled information from different colleges that have similar tracks. After much research, Marelli drafted a plan similar to that of West Chester University, and presented it to college officials.
Marelli estimated that the entire project would cost somewhere around $831,000. This, according to his calculations, would include the highest-quality track surface and the facilities to go along with it.
The college then did its own estimation, and, according to Marelli, decided that the project would cost upwards of $1.2 million, a price too high for its blood.
Bill Allen, the Dean of Administration, said that the project would indeed be very pricey. According to Allen, a track requires a very solid foundation, one which would require a lot of land excavation. Maintenance would also be expensive.
“Of course any track in Vermont is going to suffer from frost heaves and weather damage,” said Allen. “The entire process would be much more expensive then people might think.”
Marelli feels that the project would be worth the high price.
“If we had a track it would benefit everybody. Track and field events would bring a lot of people onto this campus,” he said. He later added, “All of the other athletic teams would use it for training purposes. I know the public would utilize the track. I coached for four years at Hudson Falls and people were on the track at 1:00 in the morning.”
Jake Adams, a current sports administration major at Castleton, agrees with that theory.
“When I was a sophomore in high school we got a track. You would see people out there all the time running and walking. And track and field meets were big events,” he said. “I definitely think people would utilize the track and it would be great exposure for the school.”
Although Marelli feels that a track would be a great addition, he understands the financial binds that President Wolk and the administration face.
“I think that [Wolk] is doing a great job, and I think that he really tried to include this in the plans. I’m disappointed that we’re not getting a track, but sometimes it just comes down to money,” he said.
For now, Spartan athletes will continue to hit the woods, running over crushed gravel and exposed tree roots, hoping that one day a track may accompany the lonely, quiet trails.