UNCW track team raises $140k

Casey McAnarney | Contributing Writer

The University of North Carolina Wilmington track team decimated the odds by raising over $140k through social media, alumni and professional athlete support, and the efficiency of a group of determined parents.

After the publicity that followed the news of the track team being cut back in December, there was doubt that they would gain much support for their cause. Freshman Lauren Channer recalls the sentiment after the news broke as being a “hesitance that anyone would step forward in support of the team.” Websites such saveuncwtrack.com were created and UNCW’s spirit rocks were painted displaying the state of the track team, and this advertising spread the word rapidly.

At the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coach Association convention this past December, Coach Layne Schwier remembers how “a Hall of Fame inductee even mentioned us and our fight in his acceptance speech.” The whole track and field community seems to be rallying behind this cause, and that may be because sports like basketball and football are pushing Olympic sports out of the realm of value. Schwier says that without attention to this issue then “sports like wrestling, track and field, and swimming are in trouble.”

Thus, all of the support from athletes and alumni in the form of pledges appeared in the masses, eventually totaling up to $142,743. However these endeavors did not stop Interim Chancellor William Sederburg from making the final decision to cut the track team last week.  

UNCW had announced its plans to add a sand volleyball team earlier this year, mainly in search of long-term financial stability in the athletic department and to be in compliance with Title IX laws. Coach Schwier reiterated “(Sederburg’s) a dollar and cents guy; he did not look at the level of success because that did not matter.” 

According to a Star News article published earlier in the month, Sederburg explains cutting the track team is the final step in a carefully constructed plan by university officials to eliminate chronically underfunded teams. The university was trimming fat and, to quote Schwier, “(the team) was deemed the fat apparently.”

These reasons, though, do not ease the track team’s feelings over the matter. “So many people put their heart and soul into this program and it is a tragedy it will not continue to see another year,” head coach James Schrecher said

Being one of UNCW’s most consistent sports teams in terms of achievements, losing the team has spurred an exodus of some of Wilmington’s athletes. Freshman and track team member Aaron Czupryna proclaims that he will stay at UNCW regardless of the decisions made, but he has heard of other team members turning to other institutions for athletic scholarships and a future in running.

Nevertheless, the track team is hopeful. Czupryna says now that the team is off campus it is “not really a matter of saving (the team), but bringing it back. And now the team is as strong and determined as ever.”  

Seeing how much the team raised in such a short period of time, there is a possibility that their resilience could pull them through this time. Raising over $140k in such a small span of time stands as a testament to their efforts.