For PLNU track and field, things have started a little differently this year. It has moves from the school’s previous classification, NAIA, to NCAA and has also lost a significant
number of team members: the men. Because of a title IX rule that affected PLNU after the school cut its women’s softball team, the school had to cut some men’s teams to comply with title IX – including men’s track and field.
But the challenge goes beyond no-longer having a men’s team; in the years leading up to the removal of the men’s program, recruitment for the women’s team has suffered, according to Jerry Arvin, head coach.
“When they got rid of the men’s team and said, ‘you’re not going to have a men’s team after last year,’ that announcement – for two years – really had a negative impact on women coming here,” said Arvin. “It wasn’t so much that there were no men, but it hurt some of the recruiting for women, because a lot of girls at that point were saying, ‘we don’t know if we want to go without a men’s program.’”
And for most sports this challenge wouldn’t exist. While other sports experience a separation between their men’s and women’s teams, track and field is one of the few sports that the two teams compete together.
“It really stinks to be out there without the men,” said Sally Rudi, senior. “Our team feels so small and I guess maybe that’s why we’ve come together so much. But it’s going to be sad at every meet like, ‘oh, we used to have a men’s team.’ It’s just a different dynamic.”
However, while the effects of the transition still linger, the challenge to recruit women after losing the men’s team has largely subsided, ac- cording to Arvin, as time has shown that the women’s team is here to stay.
And that sentiment is echoed through much of the team. Despite the difficulties in recruitment, the transition has really brought the team closer together, according to Lindsay Honea, senior.
“We were never very close before because there were so many people,” Said Honea. “But this year, because we have less people and we’re all girls, we’re so much more of a team. I can’t wait to compete with these girls and I’m excited to be able to go support them.”
And this closeness isn’t something commonly found in sports like track and field. Because the sport comprises a variety of athletic events, the players tend to spend most of their time with their teammates that compete in similar events.
Also, they don’t qualify for cham- pionships as a team but as individuals, which adds to the separation typically seen in track and field.
But with a team made largely of newer athletes — there are only four seniors on the team — women’s track and field is looking to grow into the future of the program.
Coming out of the lull in recruit- ment from the new title IX regula- tions, Arvin said he expects the team to be stronger and stronger as they move forward.
“We had a transition period where things moved down a little, and now
I think we are starting to move up,” said Arvin. “But I have high hopes this year is going to be good or us.”