NIU club getting feet on ground

By Dan O'Shea

In its second year, the NIU track club is “just trying to get its feet on the ground,” said coach Bill Rolette.

The track club began competing last year, more than five years after the sport was dropped from NIU’s athletic program because of university budget cuts.

“We’re still trying to get people out (for the club) and get other colleges and coaches at other programs to notice us. We’re always looking to expand.”

“I guess our biggest problem right now is that we don’t have many people out in every event. We have a lot of runners, but we don’t have any high jumpers,” Rolette said.

“We need a lot more people just for the fact that we want people to run together who can’t make it to the practices,” said track club president Tom Dempsey.

The club survives on a $700 annual budget from the Student Association and $10-per-semester dues from its 15 members. The majority of the club’s funds are used on travel expenses and some of the equipment used by the team, while membership dues pay for the rest of the equipment and entry fees at track meets, Rolette said.

“It would be nice to have more funds because we’re very limited with our transportation to the meets,” Dempsey said.

Open invitational meets at schools such as the University of Indiana, Indiana State, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Lewis and Elmhurst College make up the club’s competition schedule, most of which will be completed after the spring semester is over in May. In the fall, the club turns to cross country, and competes in indoor track in winter.

“We try to schedule good teams because we want to be competitive, but anyone who just wants to run or get some practice at a particular event is welcome too,” Rolette said.

Although the team was reasonably successful and several of members managed to qualify for NCAA post-season tournament competition, Rolette said there has been no “serious” talk about reinstating the track team as part of NIU’s athletic program.