By Samantha Thompson
While the UC Santa Cruz Track and Field Club has had to face many hurdles over the years, including a lack of funding and the absence of a proper track, they are keeping a steady pace through their spring season.
“It’s difficult, as you can imagine,” Coach Jeff Arnett said. “Building a track team without any track.”
In trying to make the best of their unfortunate situation, the athletes have figured out a way to practice on a real track.
Runners occasionally go down to Soquel High School, where they are able to practice certain events like relays and hurdles, which would be difficult to work on at UCSC.
“We make do with what we have,” said Maren Belland, a runner and second-year student. “We can make it work to a certain extent, but you really do need an all-weather, real track to get quality workouts.”
Despite the club’s many setbacks, the Slugs have had a strong run this season, with the men’s club finishing 10th out of 29 teams in Friday’s Diablo Valley College Twilight Meet.
Competition was friendlier than usual at this meet because they were competing against junior and city colleges, rather than the Division I or Division II schools that the club often faces.
“We’ve gone to some good meets and I think we performed really well against some good colleges,” sophomore runner Veronica Martinez said. “I thought we had some good competition [at DVC]. It was kind of our caliber of a meet.”
This year’s Track and Field Club has seen some of its athletes shatter school records.
Jenna Bendett cleared 4’6” in the high jump, Will Justice clocked in at 4:08.58 in the 1500-meter run, and Leonardo Garcia, who holds three other throwing records, recorded a javelin throw of 170’3”.
“We’re lucky to get athletes that talented,” Arnett said. “As you can imagine, people don’t come to UC Santa Cruz to run track.”
Recently, the Slugs have had a new addition to the coaching staff: Geoff Foley. They feel very fortunate to have him on board.
“He’s incredibly knowledgeable. I know the athletes are excited to have him,” Arnett said. “I think he’s a perfect fit for the team.”
Thanks to the passing of last spring’s Measure 23, the club now receives $2,000 each year to help with transportation and meet entry fees.
This year, they also used that money to purchase new uniforms.
“[The club] is doing better now,” Belland said. “But it’s comforting to know that next year the fund will be refilled again.”
The Slugs are now getting ready for the last meet of the season, on May 5 at the Sacramento State Open, where they hope to finish the year strong.
“It’s the last meet of season, so everyone should be peaking in their events,” Belland said. “I expect good things from that [meet].”
The track and field athletes continue to stay dedicated to their struggling sport in hopes of promoting growth within the club and support from outside of it.
“We have dedicated athletes and that’s what you need for any program,” Arnett said. “They want to do their sport in spite of the hurdles, literally.”