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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 18, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsBend it like Beck

Bend it like Beck: Time for track and field programs to take over

Like most Division III athletic programs around the country, sports like football and basketball reign over the rest at Ithaca College. Thus, sports like swimming, diving and volleyball often go overlooked.

However, after the showing at the Empire 8 Championships on Feb. 13 held at the Glazer Arena, the men’s and women’s track and field teams should be crowned the school’s best.

As of Feb. 23, the women’s squad is ranked 13th in the nation. It is the third best out of all the Bomber programs during the 2015–16 season. The wrestling currently ranks sixth in the nation while the gymnastics team ranks 10th.

The football program undoubtedly has had one of the most successful programs thanks to 366 total wins under current head coach Mike Welch and his predecessor, the late, great Jim Butterfield.

However, the track and field programs should be thrown into consideration as the best in this new day and age. It’s time for schools to stop favoring traditional sports and start favoring success.

No other program comes even close to the success of the women’s track and field program. Overall, it has had 97 All-Americans in its 37 years of being a varsity sport, which is even more than the football team, which has been a varsity sport since 1930.

At the end of the 2014–15 campaign, the women’s team was enjoying ending on a high note. The team had just come off its eighth straight Empire 8 title, led by previous All-American and senior captain Emilia Scheemaker in the long and triple jump.

Meanwhile, the men’s team had just finished an indoor season the athletes wanted to forget. For the first time in seven years, the men’s team was not an Empire 8 champion, as St. John Fisher College ran away with the competition, and the Bombers had a poor showing compared to years past.

As a whole, the women sent four athletes to the NCAA Division III Indoor Championships in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. As a junior, Alex Rechen placed sixth to become the first-ever pole vault All-American for the Blue and Gold after she cleared 3.70 meters.

Despite the consistent reign for the women and partial tumble for the men, the Bombers remained among the best in the region.

Heading into this year, the men’s squad looked to build on past success, while the women seemed to focus on improving the overall strength of their team. And boy, have they done so. The squad has been successful enough to make some, including me, believe it’s going to have a record season for the ages.

The Bombers are at the top of their game right now and have been for some time. I mean, seven Empire 8 titles in a row? How about 12 Empire 8 titles in the last 13 years? When was the last time you heard of numbers like this? Besides the cross-country teams — which, ironically, use the same athletes — no other athletic program has been on a run like this.

Sure, there are great teams of the past, such as the football teams in the 1970s, who went to four Stagg Bowls in seven years, winning one. Or the baseball teams in the 1980s, when they won their only two national championships. Even the women’s soccer program, which hasn’t had a single losing season in over 20 years under head coach Mindy Quigg, doesn’t match up to the track and field program over the last decade.

Currently, the women’s team is placed first in the Atlantic Region, while the men stand in seventh as both teams head into the Golden Eagle Invitational before they host the New York State Collegiate Track Conference Championships on Feb. 26–27.

Although I don’t expect the Glazer Arena to be packed to the single-highest bleacher like a Cortaca Jug game would normally be, it’s about time students start supporting their peers and recognize the accomplishments of the track and field programs.

Jonathan Beck can be reached at jbeck3@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @jonbeck365