Most days, a van pulls into the McCann Area parking lot. It loads as many track athletes as it can hold. The van pulls out onto route nine and begins the 20 minute trip to Vassar College, where it drops off the athletes. The runners exit the van and can finally begin their hours long practice. Afterwards the van comes and picks them up and then drops them back off at Marist. Thirty minutes to an hour each day is spent on transportation. This is the irritating reality for the Marist Track team – all because it has no home, and Marist athletics has never given it one.
When the situation is broken down, it is even more puzzling. The football team has a field, the basketball teams have a court, but the track team has to trek to Vassar College to practice during the spring season. There has never been an outdoor or indoor track at Marist. The athletic department has not given any direct explanations to the program as to why this is the case, but the common reply has been that there is no convenient location on campus to place it. There have been plans of an elevated indoor track in the renovated McCann Arena, but according to head coach and program director Pete Colaizzo, who expressed his gratitude for any kind of improvements that will come the program’s way, this would not help the team.
“The proposed elevated indoor track in the new McCann renovation will benefit the Marist community as a whole (students, faculty, staff), but it probably won’t be all that functional for a competitive Division I track/cross country program due to its size and scope.”
Implementing a track that would be functional for Division I meets would bring many advantages to the school and the program. For starters, there would be no more wasted time traveling between various different locations just to practice. Looking at the bigger picture, having an on-campus track facility containing “practice field events” (jumps and throws) equipment would make the track team whole. Right now, the program only has one field event athlete, Fallon Quigley. Coach Colaizzo says this impedes their ability to be successful as a team.
Most recently, the men’s track and field team placed seventh in the MAAC Championship, and the women fifth, but the program can only finish so high without the other practice field event athletes. Marist will always be able to compete, but as long as they lack a facility to attract practice event athletes, they will never be able to contend for a MAAC title.
For example, Marist’s scoring at meets is solely based off of distance events. They only have a few sprinters and no field athletes. In layman’s terms, any points they could earn in either field events (pole vault, long jump, etc.) or sprint races (50, 100, 200, and 400 meters) are lost before they even have a chance to score. Six out of the 13 events are practice events. If Marist had a few athletes that were competitive in these categories they would be able to place higher in their conference.
Marist’s problem is that it is extremely difficulty to recruit non-runners because they will not want to commit to a school without a track.
“It certainly has an impact on recruiting, but our philosophy is to address the issue directly and let prospective student-athletes know what we have to offer them,” Colaizzo said.
The program is appreciative of the support from the community from Vassar College, SUNY New Paltz, as well as country and national parks that let the team use their facilities, but their usage at these facilities is restricted since they are only a guest. Weather also plays a huge role. If it snows and the hosting college or park does not clear their track, the team is forced to partake in less effective workouts on Poughkeepsie side roads. A long winter can leave the team in danger of not getting onto a track until mid-season. A Division I athletic program left to practice on the street is almost unbelievable.
Coach Colaizzo is just looking for a place to call home.
“Most teams have a ‘home’ —a field, a court, a pool, the Hudson River. Having a track would give us a place to call home each and every day.”
Not only does the track team not have a home, they also don’t have a locker room. The team uses the racquetball court in McCann Arena, where they have little privacy and no security for their belongings. The team meets there every day to change into running clothes, have a brief meeting, leave their bags on the floor and go for a run. On some days, their bags have been moved out of the racquetball court due to racquetball class.
Although it seems the track team has drawn the short stick, they still find the silver linings. Colaizzo believes that the exposure his athletes have received in the community will paint them as true ambassadors for Marist Athletics.
Current track and field athletes understand the cards they have been dealt. They are understanding of the situation, but make no mistake, they wish there was a home track for them to run on. It is not something that is always openly discussed, but surely is something that is in the back of their minds.
“We all want the work we put in, day and night, to pay off at the end of the season with a win,” said Brian Henderson, junior middle distance runner. “Going into a track championship meet, the vibe is different…knowing that there is no chance of even getting near the top of the conference can be very disappointing.”
Countless practice hours, sacrificed time with friends and academics, and traveling all across the east coast for meets just to finish near the bottom of the MAAC because they are not on a level playing field can be mentally defeating. This program has seen multiple athletes reach championship level races, and seemingly every time they go out a new record is broken, but the team still feels they do not get the respect they deserve.
“I feel as if we’re the underdog of Marist Athletics and somewhat of an afterthought,” said Tanner Senius, junior middle distance runner. “We almost operate in the shadows and train and compete without anyone knowing how the team fares at races.”
Some team members believe that if more of a concern was raised to the athletic department, sponsors and donors then one day a track at Marist College could become a reality. Until then the program will never sniff the top of the MAAC.
And until then, a van will continue to pull into McCann Arena every day looking to take Marist’s athletes someplace else that isn’t their home.
Disclaimer: This story previously stated that the Marist Track and Field team had no field event athletes. Fallon Quigley is the only field event athlete on the roster for Marist.