Written by Darian Johannsen, Writer and Sports Editor
On Jan. 26, 2021, it was announced that this season will be the Austin College Cross Country and Track team’s last. With the announcement coming only two weeks before the team ran at the SCAC meet, the team was heartbroken but determined to make this season their best yet.
The long-distance team left for the University of Dallas on February 6 for the SCAC Championship and came out third overall. Promising freshman Aimee Wilburn earned twelfth place out of 51 girls, making All-Conference. Freshman Christian Tony received fifteenth place, Junior Andrew Thomas came in at fourteenth place, and Senior Johnny Biffar came in ninth.
Compared to previous years, this is a huge improvement for the team. Biffar and sophomore Andrew Cutting believe this could be just the beginning.
Senior Biffar attributes the team’s improving results to the efforts of its coach, Bryan Garcia. According to Biffar, AC’s program was struggling– however, since Garcia has been coaching the team, Biffar says, “Our team has gotten better and better each year, placing third this year and last year. Colorado College and Trinity have always kind of gone back and forth for number one and number two, but AC was really starting to close the gap under Coach Garcia.” He says he believes the team could be competing for a SCAC championship title within the next few years– if it’s still around.
Cutting is on the same page with Biffar. He says the team is well on its way to the championship title, either team or individual. Cutting noted that the team proved that last year was not a fluke and was only the beginning.
The cancelation news was a shock to the team and Coach Garcia. However, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Lynn Womble, said the idea of canceling the cross country team has been in the works for some time, and the decision was finalized this year after a meticulous review of the program. The AC track and cross country team has yet to meet NCAA participation requirements, which was a huge factor in the decision.
Provided by Lynn Womble, “we are proud of our effort to try something new six years ago, our resolve to give it the opportunity to grow, and our courage to sunset it when it proved to be unsustainable,” said Director of Athletics David Norman. “If, in the future, students wish to participate in this sport activity, they will be encouraged to apply for club status like other student clubs and organizations at Austin College.”
Austin College President O’Day has spoken on the cancelation of the team as well: “Upon analysis of all the data, it became apparent that the College is, in effect, carrying a program that has repeatedly fallen short of minimal participation requirements for NCAA Division III sports sponsorship at a varsity sport level,” said Austin College President Steven O’Day. “While this reality is disappointing, we owe it to the College and our students to dedicate our resources in the best ways possible.”
Lastly, Lynn Womble confirmed that “the discontinuation of this program will not affect scholarships for any student or any future student. This decision does not impact or impair the ability of any student to attend Austin College. 99% of our students receive some form of merit aid or financial aid, but this is not directly related to athletics.”
The AC track team’s last events will be April 10 versus Texas A&M-Commerce and SCAC Championships on April 24 and 25.