Athletic director Julie Davis waited patiently for the right set of circumstances to bring the University of Maine at Farmington indoor track program to fruition for the coming season.

The idea of establishing indoor track teams has been bandied about for several years before the university made its the decision proceed.

UMaine-Farmington athletic director Julie Davis. University of Maine at Farmington photo

“When the student leaders of the club indoor team proposed adding track and field a few years ago, we assessed both programs and proposed doing both — if not immediately, then in a phased-in fashion,” Davis said. “We opted for outdoor first, due to MBHS (Mt. Blue High School) installing a new track and other conference members becoming poised to do the same.

“We would be part of making it possible to have a conference championship in outdoor. We’ve revisited the idea annually and assessed growth and competitive opportunities. This wasn’t out of the blue, rather something we’ve been working toward strategically from the onset.”

Davis didn’t need much convincing from the student leaders.

“They didn’t have to sell me, I’d had it on my radar for some time, but they were a special group, and the timing couldn’t have been better to develop and start implementing a plan,” Davis said. “We really partnered on the plan, creating the best club experience possible until the rest could be put in order.”

Davis also sees the indoor track program as another way to recruit students to UMF. 

“I think it’s great for our program,” Davis said. “It’s a great opportunity for more students to consider UMF and to benefit from the experience here. The more talented student-athletes want to train and compete in both seasons (and all three if they are distance runners). They want a chance to qualify for NCAAs, if they are good enough. This all builds on momentum for us and them. It makes the experience more seamless.”

Davis did have to get new president Edward Serna and vice president Christine Wilson up to speed on the potential indoor track program.

“I needed to let new the leadership get their feet under them this summer, and learn what we’d been working toward,” Davis said. “They concurred this makes a ton of sense, and they have enthusiastically supported us moving forward. It’s good for UMF over all.”

Davis said the indoor track program is a real bargain for a number of reasons.

“The return on investment is excellent on this one,” David said. “More students will choose UMF as a result, and the retention and graduation rates of our student-athletes is high. The uniforms, equipment and coaching staff are shared, so in that sense it is less expensive than some other sports. There was already some overlap of seasons. In the indoor season, there are more meets in-state, which is also great on many levels and less expensive.”

UMF coach Joseph DiSalvo will be given the additional duties of coaching the indoor program as well as overseeing the cross country and outdoor track teams.

UMaine-Farmington track and field and cross country coach Joseph DiSalvo. University of Maine at Farmington photo

“Since adding an outdoor track and field program, we knew that we wanted to continue our growth with an indoor team in the near future,” DiSalvo said. “The two seasons complement each other very well. This addition will give our student-athletes additional competitive experience throughout the winter. 

“Adding indoor track and field will continue to help our student-athletes to be the best that they can be. We have cross country and outdoor track and field athletes who look to continue competing through the winter months with an indoor program. We have had a club team the past few years, but adding indoor track and field as a varsity program will significantly help us to compete at the highest level.”

VENUE IN FUTURE

As far building a new facility, such as a field house, that will remain a long-term goal for the moment.

“We have dreams and long-term strategic plans for indoor and outdoor athletics facilities, but the club team was already practicing in the campus field house and pool and varsity weight room as well as cross training as needed,” Davis said. “We’ve gone to some other facilities in the area to complement what we can do at home, too. There is more flexibility to do that in January. We are creative and a lot of the prospective high school student-athletes across the northern states are used to that.

“The club teams had already carved out some space and time, but we anticipate growth to the point that this becomes more of a need and opportunity. In the meantime, we are slated for a new surface in the campus Fitness and Recreation Center Field House before fall semester begins.”

Davis said that it might take a year or two for the cross country and outdoor track teams to benefit from the indoor program’s existence.

“Some distance/mid-distance runners will definitely be interested and benefit,” Davis said. “We do have some cross country runners who opt for Nordic now, and this will continue for some, too, I expect. There is synergy between all of these programs.

“We didn’t have a recruiting cycle knowing we could go live this year, but we do anticipate a good recruiting class for track and field, regardless. We’ve had a club in place so we aren’t starting from scratch. It will be the following year that we should realize an impact in numbers and performance from the addition.”

DiSalvo said the indoor track teams are in good shape for their debuts this coming season.

“One exciting aspect of this transition is that we are not starting from scratch,” DiSalvo said. “We have had a well-established club program, which will shift into this NCAA team. This will help for a very smooth transition and we will be looking to compete at a high level from Day 1.

“I am extremely excited to get to work this winter. Our student-athletes have been excited about the possibility of adding indoor track and field for quite some time, so we are excited as a university to be able to provide this opportunity for them. We have made a lot of progress in cross country and outdoor track and field this past year, and I am excited to make significant strides in our first official year of NCAA indoor track and field.”

Davis is amazed and appreciative of the support that new program is already receiving.

“The primary thing, is to remove a barrier for a quality recruit to come to UMF, to benefit from and contribute to all that we have to offer,” Davis said. “It has been wonderful to hear support across campus, in the community and in particular from the alumni who helped start the program a few years ago. They are excited to see this come to fruition.

“Additionally, there are some administrative operational things that will just be smoother with the continuity of both programs being NCAA. It is premature to say when, but I expect we will be able to be part of the North Atlantic Conference moving toward offering indoor conference championships, too, in the not to distant future.”


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