by Megan Murray
Since the founding of Millsaps College in 1890, the campus has always lacked a proper competition track. In fact, the men and women’s track and field teams are the only Majors sports that do not have their own facility on campus. With 29 student-athletes between the men and women’s teams, does the lack of a track put these athletes and the reputation of the Majors track and field program at a disadvantage? And are there any plans for a track on the campus of Millsaps College in the foreseeable future?
The first problem with not having a track on campus regards to the continuation of any college sports program: recruiting. Millsaps College is the only school in the Southern Athletic Association that does not have its own track on campus. Andy Till, the Majors men and women’s track coach said, “Recruiting is a challenge. It is hard to compete with schools like Rhodes, which has a beautiful facility. When a recruit comes for a visit and asks where we practice, it is very hard to make it sound appealing.”
Sophomore sprinter Claudia Brunson transferred to Millsaps College this past semester after attending a college with its own track facility. Brunson, who is also the news editor of the P&W, said, “I know it is hard to recruit track and field athletes because there is no track. Most athletes that are good enough to run on the college level are looking at schools that have tracks and are willing to offer them a scholarship. I would know, because I was one of those athletes out of high school.”
As all Millsaps student-athletes know, time is always of the essence. With no track on campus, Majors track and field student-athletes waste valuable time traveling to and from different locations to accommodate their practice needs. “Structuring practice would be a lot easier [if we had a track on campus] as far as being able to work around everyone’s schedule,” Till said. “Driving to Jackson Academy [or St. Andrew’s] can take up 20-30 minutes of practice time just getting there and back. Then we have to deal with sharing the track. When Belhaven shows up, they are all over the track, so we have to work around them. So we definitely have our challenges with facilities.”
Brunson also noted the financial strain for team members and the school. “If we are not going to have a track on campus, I feel as if Millsaps should offer me a gas money check every month to commute other athletes and myself back and forth to practice,” she said. “I do not understand why we pay these high schools to use their track when we could just put that money towards building a track on campus so that way we can host our own meets.”
In addition, the bond between teammates is vital to the success of any college sport. With Millsaps track and field athletes traveling in so many different directions to comply with the different needs of sprinters, throwers, jumpers and distance runners, rarely can they come together as a collective unit for practice. “One of the bigger challenges is building the team atmosphere the way I ideally want to build it. The team is always fragmented,” Till said. “The ideal situation is we are at the track together. We meet together and then break off and do our different workouts. But without a facility, that is impossible… I think once we build our own facility, then we can really build the atmosphere the way we ideally want it to be.”
So, are there any plans to help our track and field student-athletes and coaches? Athletic Director Josh Brooks noted that, “The biggest problem right now is finding a location on campus that can accommodate the space and structural integrity needed to build a track.” He added, “Since the tennis and softball field improvements are now underway, the process of building a track on campus is on the top of our list.” The possibility of having a track on the campus of Millsaps College could be in the foreseeable future. Hopefully, it will make things easier for current track and field student-athletes and also attract more track and field recruits to become Majors.