I ended up at W&M in a bit of an unorthodox way. I initially wanted to run at Richmond, but after my official visit [to Richmond], they cut their men’s track and field teams. It was then that I decided to go to a school that has historically been the team to watch. I ran for the Tribe because, to me, it was a school that respected hard work and the tradition of excellence wherever that may come from. It was not a school trying to be your typical state school. I respected that unique sense of identity. I started running because I knew I was gay and I needed something to distract myself and to hide/lose my identity. I did this for 7 years and was content never being myself and just living the “straight life” I thought I had to have. I think if I had gone to any other school I would still be in the closet or would hate myself for being gay. At William & Mary, I didn’t feel like I was just the runner, but I was allowed to show Cavender. I was no longer just hiding in my sport. I felt like I was a part of a storied history and my story mattered in the program. When I did come out there weren’t any issues within my team and among those I worked with in athletics. I cannot say this enough, William and Mary track is something special. You will not and cannot find that culture anywhere else. While a part of the team, I was able to learn to love myself and they were accepting and loving enough to allow me to grow into the person I am today. Not only were they accepting, but they wanted to learn how to be better allies. By the time I left the program, I felt surrounded by strong allies who would go to bat for me and to make sure I felt safe. I’ve never seen a more powerful display of allyship than I did on the William & Mary track team.
The moments where I didn’t feel accepted as a gay athlete were moments the administration told me to not care about (including Huge). But let me tell you, those that listened to my frustration and were ready to fight along side me were athletes not only from my team but from the other programs William & Mary has decided to cut. By cutting these 7 programs, W&M has decided it does not care about the athletes that make up Tribe Athletics’ traditions and culture. They have effectively neutered their own department and robbed athletes like me who need a space to come out and grow into their own identities.
Cavender Salvadori '18