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When I started taking running competitively seriously in 8th grade, my cross country coach was a W&M alum (former world record holder, Vince Norako ‘71). At the time I didn’t know it, but that would only be the first instance that W&M Track and Field would impact my life. When W&M recruited me in high school, I was honored. Being a local kid from Yorktown, I’d heard so much about W&M’s historic track program and it’s prestigious reputation. I was excited for my future.

The future the program brought me was nothing short of spectacular: individual and team championships, wonderful coaches and mentors, and above all, lifelong friends and relationships. W&M Track means everything to me, because for 5 years, it gave ME everything and more. It gave me the opportunity to learn from Chris Solinsky, one of the greatest distance runners in American history, and also be coached by one of the grittiest, tough as nails, and most inspirational coaches one could ever have in Forest Braden. It gave me teammates, friends, and housemates who did nothing but support me. It gave me the opportunity to be a contributor, a leader, and a friend.

Track taught me resilience, to lead by example, and the strength in community. I did not have much of a team in high school and mostly trained by myself for two years. W&M changed that for me. It taught me that strength is in numbers, in friendship, in One Tribe. Most importantly, it taught me that athletics is about more than the sport itself: it’s about molding yourself into the best person you can ever be. Not only did this program give me the chance to develop as an athlete and person, but it allowed me to watch all my teammates develop as athletes and individuals as well. It was truly a privilege. Saying I am thankful for W&M Track is truly an understatement - I am forever indebted to this program for what it and its wonderful community did for me.

Tribe Athletics stands to lose so much by cutting Men’s Track. It loses the prestige, pride, and dedication the members of this team and its alumni give to it every day. It misses the chance to develop future leaders, academics, and professionals. It deprives its wonderful staff and coaches from impacting people’s lives. And, above all, it hinders the collective community of Men’s and Women’s XC and track. How can our Women’s team continue to strive for excellence when the men are no longer by their side supporting them? How can cross country continue to win titles without the support and inspiration from their fellow track teammates? How can the Track and Field Program be One Tribe with such a large component missing?

The answer is it can’t.

Dawson Connell '19

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