Leonidoff Field broke ground in 1965, McCann Arena opened in 1977, McCann Baseball Field was built in 1991 but still, 94 years following the institution’s founding, Marist College remains without a track.
The men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams are Division I programs with many accolades and standout athletes to their credit, yet they are the only sport without facilities. Even the crew team has the Hudson River to practice, however, the track team must travel to Vassar College and go off-road to different trails to train.
There has been plenty of success in recent years, with athletes such as senior Glenmour Leonard-Osbourne shattering MAAC records last season. Despite the program’s resume, the draw for recruits to come to Marist does not compare to those of other schools to have on-campus facilities designated for them.
Pete Colaizzo is a Marist graduate and has been coaching track and cross country at his alma mater for 32 years. While the lack of a facility is not viewed as a major detriment, his team and coaching staff agree that adding one would benefit the program immensely.
“Right now, in non-running events, we have a handful of field event people, but if we had a track, we could expand that whole area,” Colaizzo said. “You talk about geographic diversity, ethnic diversity, forget it.”
Athletes will be more willing to run for a school across the country if they are committing to a school that prioritizes their needs. Having to travel to practice every day ties into convenience and can be the difference between choosing to go somewhere or not.
“Because now a triple-jumper from California flies in here, like, wow, I can do this here. Whereas now, he or she is, you know, not going to come,” Colaizzo said. “You can’t do events without the facilities.”
The desire for a track has been discussed for years within the athletic department but no true plans to begin developing one have ever been seriously considered.
“It’s a matter of priorities and resources,” Marist athletic director Tim Murray said.
Massive infrastructure projects have not been outside the realm of Marist’s capabilities in previous years, with substantial money committed to a number of buildings.
Marist devoted $33 million to the McCann Arena renovation in 2018 and the $60 million renovation of the Dyson Center is now making tangible progress. The shortage of funds is clearly not the primary issue in regard to the lack of an on-campus track.
“What we’ve tried to do is to build facilities with the highest impact on the highest number of people,” Tim Murray said. “The stadium – huge impact on intramurals, club sports, recreation, you know, and then all of our varsity sports, and so on. The McCann Center impacts 5,000 undergraduate students.”
While the Tenney Stadium and the McCann Center might have bigger capacities, an outdoor track would have a chance to impact just as many students.
“It would enhance the entire campus community because not only would it benefit our team, it would benefit every varsity and club sports team that can train on it,” Chuck Williams said, the head women’s cross country and track coach.
Football, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, men’s lacrosse, and women’s lacrosse all share Tenney Stadium. Five Division I programs, along with intramurals, the marching band, and many other events take place on the field year-round. Assuming the usage and overall impact on the school would be minimal is a massive understatement if these other major renovations are any indication.
“You could actually host meets and generate revenue from it,” Williams said.
Schools get compensated for hosting meets and with the only other schools in the conference to have tracks on campus being Rider University and Mount St. Mary’s University, it would instantly turn Marist into the exemplary model for track and field.
The notion that it would only benefit one sport would seriously undervalue its impact. The program could expand their specialties beyond just short and long-distance running to all areas because recruiting would improve significantly. It would also provide another exercise option for the rest of the undergraduate population.
There are ample reasons why a track and field facility would help Marist, but Colaizzo emphasizes that having one is not a be-all and end-all for the program.
“If not having a track was a big deal, we would have been gone a long time ago,” the head coach said.
Track and field and cross country have prevailed and prospered without their own track all this time. Though one might wonder what heights these teams could reach with the right resources.
While a track would be a multi-million dollar project, it is something that feels long overdue after all this time without one. Hopefully one day an on-field facility will be more than just a dream.
Photo from Marist Athletics
Edited by Jonathan Kinane and Andrew Hard