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Wednesday, May 22
 
Vermont's track heritage victim of bad choices

By Jeff Hollobaugh
Special to ESPN.com

They celebrated a big one in the Green Mountains this year, the 100th anniversary of track and field at the University of Vermont.

At the America East meet, Jeff Guilmette won his eighth conference title in the shot with a meet record toss of 56 feet, five inches. Reason to celebrate? Not really.

There will be no 101st anniversary for the Catamounts, at least for the men's side of the program (since the advent of women's track, the men's and women's programs have been combined). On Sept. 13, the university announced it would eliminate men's track.

The cut was part of the elimination of five sports as part of a budget trimming. The university never acknowledged that Title IX might be involved. Instead, officials said they wanted to focus more of their limited scholarship money on revenue sports. They said they would save $350,000 over three years, but after factoring in the loss of NCAA funds, the university only saves a meager $49,000 a year.

One would have thought that bright times were ahead. The university is targeting sports donors as part of a $200 million fund-raising drive and reportedly $25 million will be set aside for sports. So why make the cuts? Whatever the reason, it hardly seems worth throwing out 100 years of history.

Why couldn't Vermont follow the lead of New Hampshire? When faced with a financial crisis two years ago, that university focused on first-time donors to generate $500,000 for the track program in six months.

Ed Kusiak, who has coached the Vermont program for 35 years, was stunned by the decision. "I was not given the courtesy to defend my program before the committee that eventually decided our fate," he wrote on a Web site devoted to the fight to save the team.

Since Kusiak's salary will still be paid as he coaches the women's team, one has to wonder why opportunity has to be denied to the men. After all, team backers are saying it would cost less than $10,000 annually to continue running the men's program. Much more than that amount will be lost if just one walk-on track athlete decides to run track at some other college. The math just doesn't make the decision of the officials look good.

According to Pat Garrity of the Burlington Free Press, the Cats took a lap around the track at the conclusion of the America East meet, while their former opponents gave them a standing ovation. That they earned; it's a shame they don't have the respect of their own administrators.

Some have made Title IX the villain here. Yet that is not clearly the case. After all, women's volleyball was dropped, also. Rather, this seems to be about revenue sports versus nonrevenue sports, and a university that has turned its back on its longtime commitment to provide equal opportunity to the residents of its state.

Kusiak recruited primarily from Vermont. His program provided real opportunities for men and women. Now he has only the women left, and I imagine they'll be struggling for years to find a bright side to this.

Latest news from the track

  • Adam Nelson is frighteningly hot in the shot right now. At the adidas Portland meet, he launched the iron ball out to a world-leading 73-9 on his first throw, then went 73-10 on his next. John Godina threw 71-10 in second and Kevin Toth 71-5.5 in third. Said Nelson: "I've got bigger things in store. As long as I can stay healthy and get ready for Nationals there's going to be some really big things coming on. ... Throwing a 73-footer early in the competition was completely unexpected. I fouled earlier this year at 73-8, so I knew I could do it, but to throw that far back-to-back was more than I could ever want right now."

  • Brahim Boulami ran 8:04.51 in the steeplechase, breaking the former world record 8:05.4 of Henry Rono in 1978 as the fastest time ever on U.S. soil. In third, Tim Broe clocked 8:18.86 ("I hate the steeplechase. I dread it every time I do it."). Coby Miller won the 100 in 9.98, and David Krummenacker the 1,000 in 2:15.97.

  • Meisha McElvey captured the hurdles in 12.73, and the 5,000 went to Tiranesh Dibaba. The Ethiopian outkicked Marla Runyan, 15:13.78 to 15:13.96. In the 800, Nicole Teter dominated with a 2:00.52. Mary Sauer won the pole vault at 15-1.75.

  • In Nairobi, the comeback of Namibian sprinter Frank Fredericks continued. He ran a wind-aided 9.85 over 100 meters. The 800 at that meet went to Kenya's Vincent Kemboi in 1:44.92.

  • At the Junior College nationals in Odessa, Texas, Leevan Sands of the Bahamas leaped a national record 57-5 in the triple jump, after winning the long jump at 25-11. Second place went to Barton County teammate LeJuan Simon (a wind-aided 57-0.75). Barton County won the men's team race by nearly 130 points over Central Arizona.

    On the women's side, Barton County defeated Central Arizona with a slimmer 26.5-point margin. Veronica Campbell of Jamaica, the double world junior sprint champ of 2000, led a 1-2-3 Cougar sweep in the 200 with a 22.38 (and 11.17 in the 100). Yuliana Perez (formerly of Cuba) tripled 46-9 windy. Hyleas Fountain, a freshman from Pennsylvania, amazed by scoring 5,673 in the heptathlon, a mark that establishes her as a world-class prospect in the seven-event contest.

  • At the Big 12 meet, Nebraska's men and Kansas State's women came out on top. The Wildcats put four women into the scoring in the javelin, a key event that helped them finish the meet just one point ahead of Texas.

  • Wisconsin got a great surprise at the Big 10 meet. Distance coach Jerry Schumacher, figuring that victory was a bit unrealistic because of a 24-point deficit, told Matt Tegenkamp he didn't have to run because of his sore hip. Tegenkamp insisted and finished second to teammate Isaiah Festa. The Badgers scored 27 points there and added a second place in the 4x400 to win their third consecutive title.

    Michigan won the women's Big 10 title, but the big shocker came from Indiana's Danielle Carruthers, who hammered a 12.68 in the 100 hurdles. "I just really wanted to go out there and run my own race," she said. Michigan's key wins came from Rachel Sturtz (2:07.45 in the 800), Vera Simms (58.50 in the hurdles) and Katy Jazwinski (16:32.60 in the 5,000).

    TV alert
    Note that on Sunday the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., will be televised on ESPN2 at 11 p.m.

    Jeff Hollobaugh, former managing editor of Track and Field News, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached by e-mail at michtrack@aol.com.


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