It’s 9 p.m., and I’m walking alone from the sorority quad to North campus. But don’t worry – I’m not heading to an ill-advised frat party – I’m going to track practice.
The NU Track Club’s distance runners run nearly every day of the week, but if I’m lucky, I get to practice twice. That’s because the sprinters only have space in the Ryan Fieldhouse on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The best part of going to a school without a varsity track team is that we are the varsity track team. And the worst part about going to a school without a varsity track team is the lack of outreach, numbers, and most importantly: facilities.
Let’s talk numbers. Of the 139 members of the #general Slack channel, seven are sprinters. Only four show up to practices regularly, and just one is a jumper. Compare this to my high school of 1,800 kids, which consistently had a team of 200 athletes every year. Whether it's due to poor marketing or simply the lack of facilities, the University’s track team is essentially nonexistent.
Marketing is the least of Northwestern track’s problems, but it is a problem. I had to seek out the team (a fraught search of guessing at the Instagram handle), and I almost didn’t reach out because I didn’t see any sprinters or jumpers. Once I sent a DM, I was told there weren’t many upperclassmen jumpers (read: none), but the team “would love to have me” (with exclamation marks). Now that I’ve seen how the team has to operate, it’s no surprise that sprinters don’t stick around.
Facilities are the source of all our problems. SPAC has an indoor track that works great – that is, if you want to run approximately 10.5 laps for a mile and pound that concrete floor (and almost slam into the wall on every turn). If that’s not your speed (and it’s not), you can try the field house: a gorgeous facility with a lake view and three other sports practicing at the same time. If you decide to brave the whizzing frisbees and dodge lacrosse balls, you’ll be guessing at every distance. If anyone can confirm for me how much of a lap is 330 meters, that would be great.
The Ryan Field renovation, a facility that used to hold a campus track before an earlier renovation, will cost Northwestern $800,000,000. I could understand if Northwestern wanted to update the facilities for the girls’ field hockey team – a team with top finishes in the past two years – but for the football team? The team whose only win in the 2022 season was on foreign soil? It’s more confusing than finding your classroom in Tech. I’ve been to Ryan Field: it’s massive, impressive and certainly not in need of renovation. Unlike the track, which – oh wait, still doesn’t exist.
We don’t have a track. So what? The only official running team on campus, the girls’ cross country team, was ranked No. 2 in the Midwest and No. 30 in the country leading up to the 2022 NCAA Championships. These girls alone deserve a track so they can expand their competition to track season if they choose. Beyond just the cross country team, the other runners on campus – and those deterred from Northwestern due to the lack of a track – deserve an actual facility with eight lanes of red rubber (or purple if that’s more convincing).
But even without a track, the Northwestern running scene is working hard to keep its momentum. Between the official cross country team and the track club, Northwestern’s Assigned-Female-at-Birth distance runners are taken care of, but everyone else is running in circles (approximately 10.5 of them) to keep up.