Getting cut from a sports team can be a crushing experience. When junior Sterling Payne and sophomores Malcolm Wilber, Connor Cleveland and Jason Christopherson were dropped from the men’s cross-country team’s roster earlier this month, their natural inclination could have been to sit on the couch and pout about their rotten luck.
But that’s not how these guys roll.
They created the Social Runners Project, an informal group intended to give runners outside the varsity program a chance to train and compete in local races together. The project is currently made up of four definite members, but a few dozen more students have indicated interest through Facebook and word-of-mouth.
I talked with Payne about the project on Sept. 15. He said the group was first conceived as a joke once the runners were cut from the varsity squad at the end of preseason training.
“We weren’t really serious when we were talking,” Payne said. “We were just like ‘We should make something of our own called like the ‘Social Runners Project,’ and then we were like, ‘Oh, wait, we can actually do this.’”
Payne and his fellow runners have been meeting every day at 4:30 p.m. in the Terrace Quad. From there, they set out on local trail runs around areas like the Cornell Plantations, Buttermilk Falls State Park and Stewart Park.
Payne emphasized that his co-founders have no sour grapes with the cross-country program. Sophomore Ben Grove, a member of the varsity team, said he and his teammates are excited about the project and the opportunities it presents.
“In previous years, people get cut from the team, and they’ll never run again,” Grove said. “This is the first group of guys that have taken this bad experience and turned it into something really positive.”
The Social Runners Project is also open to any students who are serious about running and gives them a chance to compete against other runners in the area. Payne said the group will compete as a team at races that range from five to 10 kilometers and are hosted by the Genessee Valley Harriers at locations across upstate New York.
While the project is still in its early stages, Payne said he hopes students will use the group as a way to stay active and motivate each other.
“I’d like to see a bunch of people not walking away from running just because they’re not part of an actual team, or because they don’t have people to run with,” he said. “No one should have to just train by themselves.”
Thanks to the Social Runners Project, Ithaca College runners no longer have to.