The run’s roadblock: Why is there no more cross country at Bellevue?

Bellevue College has a slew of competitive sports teams, athletic classes and even clubs, but one of the most popular collegiate athletic pastimes isn’t among them: running.  Cross-country joined track as a discontinued athletic program this year, leaving BC with about ten athletic programs.

Why was it cut?

“The answer’s the same as always: there’s not enough money,” said Athletic Program Coordinator Rusty Wire.  “We had to cut a program and that was it.”

Stella Orechia, a faculty instructor and nine-year cross-country coach, said that there were a number of reasons why the team disbanded, but the main necessities lacking were money, interested students and a coach with enough free time to run the team.

“You would need two things [to get the team started again].  One, money to jumpstart the program and promote it on campus and at high schools.  Two, you would need to find a committed coach.”  She added that since cross-country is a year-round sport that requires year-round training, the time demands on a coach can be challenging to accommodate.

Although the sport itself isn’t particularly expensive relative to soccer or basketball, the costs in time and management for an entire sports team can nevertheless become a heavy burden for the athletic department, which must maintain a tight budget.  “It’s a big squad,” said Orechia, citing the 30 to 40 member teams that compete from many other schools, and numbers cost money.  Uniform, food, transportation and even training costs are all higher on larger teams.  The fees for competing meets are also higher than they have been in past years.

Athletic Director Bill O’Connor added: “Not having a track team hurts.  We don’t have the recruits we would normally have.”

Traditionally, there is a significant overlap in participation between the track team and cross-country team.  After the track team disbanded several years ago, fewer students joined the cross-country team.

O’Connor was adamant in differentiating the missing cross-country team from BC’s lack of a football squad.  “It wasn’t eliminated – it was discontinued. It’s a program that can be restarted.”

In order for that to happen, however, he said the sport would need more recruits, and the desire just isn’t there to justify reforming the team this year.

With regards to the question of not having a cross-country team, O’Connor expressed that it might be narrow-sighted to focus in too much on one or even several missing programs.

BC has numerous successful competitive teams.  The baseball team has won multiple championships over the last few years, and the women’s volleyball team is doing very well.  Renton Technical College, by stark contrast, has no sports teams, clubs or athletic programs whatsoever.