For a program that once believed it would not exist at this point in time, the UNC Wilmington men’s and women’s cross-country teams have come a long way in the last year and half.
Funding issues in the spring of 2015 led the university to declare both the cross-country and track & field teams would be cut and, in turn, convinced many student athletes at UNCW to transfer.
In spite of the hardships the program faced at the time, the worst did not come. Most teams kept going through various efforts made by the community and university system.
Coach Lane Schwier, who has been at the helm of the cross-country and track & field programs for 13 years, remembers how upset he was when told the programs would be cut.
“Anybody would be (upset) when you’re basically told you aren’t wanted,” Schwier said. “It isn’t pleasant, especially when you don’t agree with their reasoning … I know it was a business decision.”
It affected recruiting in various ways — more than a half-dozen runners transferred out in fear of having their careers ended early and recruiting became much more difficult for Schwier, who did his best to overcome the uncertainty of the program’s future.
“Recruiting stunk for that year,” he said. “No one wanted to come here. We were able to convince a few people to come once we found out we were going to be saved, and we graduated a lot, so our roster was basically cut in half in one year.”
Fortunately, quite a few runners stuck with their commitment to being Seahawks. The season following the crisis allowed a couple of standouts to emerge from those who stayed.
Alex Boseman will be entering his junior season not long after earning All-Colonial Athletic Association honors a year ago. He was awarded a scholarship after going without during his first two seasons on the course, being called the men’s team’s cut-and-dry leader at each event.
“This season we will be a very young team and I’m looking forward to seeing how the freshman acclimate to our program,” Boseman said. “I’m also really looking forward to renewing our yearly trip up to Boone to race and take advantage of their parks for a long run the next day.”
On the women’s side, Sarah Hamon showed to be the best part of a rebuilding team. She finished 43rd in the CAA meet and 185th in the NCAA Regionals. Her junior season will be her last, as she’s graduating a year early.
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to lead our team this season,” Hamon said. “I have been working incredibly hard, since track ended, towards my individual goals for this upcoming year. I’ve also been doing a lot of planning with Coach Schwier for ideas for the team and season as well.”
Hamon was recently selected to do what few Seahawks have done before. She was selected by Team USA for its junior national mountain running team, where she will run for her country in Bulgaria early next month.
“It is an amazing honor to be able to be on Team USA,” she said. “It has all become very real and very fast with talking to the coaches and my teammates, arranging all of the travel, and receiving a bunch of Team USA gear. I’m very excited for this once in a lifetime opportunity, especially now that it’s less than a month away.”
She’s the first UNCW runner to compete on a national level since Anna Raynor Marbry, who was inducted into the UNCW Athletic Hall of Fame last February and is arguably the most decorated athlete in school history.
There are currently plans to start a new tradition between the cross-country program and the on-campus community, “Chancellor’s Mile,” which will be a fundraiser-type event where participants will be able to sign-up for a run on Chancellor’s Walk. It is expected to be held in October.