CLICK HERE for the original article on centralmainesports.com by staff writer Travis Lazarczyk.
On a windy spring day at the Winslow High School track, the Thomas College track and field team practiced. Track and field is a club sport at Thomas, and while the ultimate goal is to become a varsity program, for now the Terriers are preparing for the North Atlantic Conference championship meet coming up on April 27 at Colby-Sawyer.
The NAC sponsors women's track and field as a varsity sport, so the men's competition at the conference championship will be an invitational meet.
"We're not sure if it will happen next year, or the year after, but the school's administration is very supportive," Thomas track and field coach Peter Marsh said about the possibility of his team becoming a varsity squad in the near future.
The Terriers are happy just competiting. Senior Nicole Sevigny joined the team at the invitation of a friend.
"Of course I was definitely interested. I thought it was great," Sevigny, who competes in the 100 and 200 meters and long jump, said. "When I first came to Thomas, there was no club."
A former track and field coach at Cony High School, Marsh has 19 athletes on the roster. Most of them came like Sevigny, through on campus word of mouth. Some came from other sports, like men's soccer players Ibrahim Moustapher and Chris Godfrey, Richmond's Lindsy Hoopingarner, who also plays softball and soccer, to name a few.
"A lot of these kids came in running times that could compete with anybody here in Maine. I think it's been a great experience for them to return to it. The coaches of other teams have been very supportive," Marsh said.
"Most distance runners, when they're looking at colleges, they're not looking at 'I want to run in the fall and I'm done.' They're looking at a four-year plan," Marsh, who works with Thomas cross country coach Kerry Smart to design training plans for his team's distance runners, said.
Sophomore Nolan Callahan, who competes in the four throwing events (hammer, discus, shot put, javelin) was a recent transfer to Thomas from Hartwick College in upstate New York, where he'd played two years of football, when he was approached by Marsh in the gym.
"I did track in high school for a year or two. It sounded interesting," Callahan, a native of Berlin, Vt., said. "(Marsh) said he saw a lot of potential in all of us."
That potential was on display most recently last weekend, when the Terriers competed in the Colby Invitational across town at Colby College. While Thomas wasn't allowed to score, the Terriers held their own. Callahan's 131 foot javelin throw would have placed him sixth. His 35 feet, 8 inch shot put was good enough to earn Callahan fourth.
"It's fun to see where those kids are at. Even though they're pretty good, most of us placed. It was a good experience," Callahan said.
The Terriers have competed across New England. The indoor track and field schedule included the Greater Boston Track Club Invitational at Harvard. Marsh hasn't scored out every meet to see how his team would fare, but he does routinuely compare his athletes' times, throws and jumps to others competing in the NAC.
"Local meets choose not to score us, which is fine. Our kids still get the opportunity to compete. Our kids are performing at or alongside some of the top performers," Marsh said.
To expand the team, Marsh's recruiting efforts take him off campus to high school meets.
"What does being a club mean? That's always the first question we get," Marsh said. "Especially in this techology age, we say we're from Thomas, and they and their parents are on their phones. Before we're finished, they know more about us than we can spit out.
"The club option provides them with, I think, more opportunity. They aren't losing years of eligibility. They're able to compete at the college level and say, is this for me?" Marsh said. "If we move to varsity next year or the year after, those athletes who have participated haven't lost those years of eligibility."
A few of the athletes on the Thomas track and field team won't be around to see what their building now if or when it becomes a varsity team. Still, it's about having fun as much as it's about competiting.
"It's pretty much a family. We eat dinner together. We hang out together," Sevigny, a senior from New Durham, N.H., said.
"We started out pretty small. Now it's just growing," Callahan said. "We need to get a good recruiting class in, and try to win the conference."