Presque Isle, ME – The University of Maine at Presque Isle track and field teams have been preparing for their opening meet to be held at Bridgewater State University on March 23rd and 24th. Team members have been consistently training since late January in anticipation of this inaugural varsity level competition.
UMPI has had many cross country runners take it upon themselves to enter USATF and other meets over the years, and club track and field teams have competed in two to three meets each spring since 2010. This opening, fully sponsored program has been a long time coming. Says head coach Chris Smith, "I've looked to begin varsity track and field since I first began coaching cross country back in 1987. In 1989 we made our first trip to NAIA nationals in Kenosha, WI and we got a first-hand look at how competitive it is on the national scene. After competing at nationals for three years, I did some research and found that we were one of but two or three teams represented who did not sponsor at least an outdoor season in the spring".
Within a climate of looking to grow athletics programs and looking ahead to eventually gaining acceptance into an NCAA D3 conference, former athletic director Michael Holmes laid the groundwork for initiating the program. The continued efforts of current athletic director Dan Kane and his staff and other University constituencies has resulted in the University's acceptance to full membership in the North Atlantic Conference (NAC). Beginning in the fall of 2018 all UMPI programs will be going head to head with member institutions Maine Maritime Academy, Thomas College, Husson University, U-Maine at Farmington, the Lyndon and Johnson campuses of Northern Vermont University, and SUNY Canton. UMPI's track and field team will be participating in this year's April 29th NAC championship meet as cross country and track and field are currently conference members.
With a solid cadre of athletes set to compete this spring, the UMPI program is undergoing an evolving process. Many high school seniors have already committed for 2018-2019, recruiting efforts are ongoing, and the word is out of this new offering. Head Coach Smith and Assistant Coach Terry Gaitor of Miami anticipate nothing but good things as the program moves forward. In handling sprints/relays and hurdling events, Coach Gaitor has been working with his charges in Gentile Hall and working primarily with attracting athletes to his specific areas of expertise. Smith has been working with mid and long distance runners in both Gentile Hall and out doors. Throwing and jumping training takes place under Smith in both Gentile and Wieden Hall.
After the opener at Bridgewater State, the Owls will be traveling twice to Southern New Hampshire University, to Regis College, to Fitchburg State University, to Bowdoin College, and to the NAC championship meet to be hosted by Colby Sawyer College in New London, NH. Should individual athletes hit the standards for NCAA D3 New Englands they will be headed to Tufts University for the early May meet.