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Grinnell to host NCAA track and field Nationals

The Fieldhouse is a state of the art facility, and a major reason Grinnell was chosen to host Nationals. Photo by Jonathan Gilmour.

Gabe Lehman

The Fieldhouse is a state of the art facility, and a major reason Grinnell was chosen to host Nationals.  Photo by Jonathan Gilmour.
The Fieldhouse is a state of the art facility, and a major reason Grinnell was chosen to host Nationals.
Photo by Jonathan Gilmour.

If you happen to wander around the administrative wing of the Bear Recreational Center this week you are likely see multiple harried members of the athletic department moving at break-neck speed to make sure this weekend’s events go as planned. 

“Look at all these people,” said women’s track and field head coach Evelyn Freeman in astonishment, as two college employees sprinted past to make copies. 

This cacophony is due to the 2016 NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships, hosted here at Grinnell College.

The tournament is expected to draw hundreds, however, the planned goes beyond just the events. An 860-person banquet is scheduled and over 200 students and volunteers have been called upon to assist. 

“We work with numerous offices on campus to assist in event operations, including Facilities Management, Campus Safety & Security, Dining Services, ITS, etc. We’ve also worked with the [Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce] and the local law enforcement and fire department for issues related to their areas of jurisdiction,” wrote Coordinator of Athletic Facilities and Club Sports Ben Cooprider in an email to the S&B. 

While it is a boon for the College, head tennis coach Andy Hamilton ’85 points out how the tournament will also be beneficial for the entire town.

“There is a definite benefit for the community. There has got to be a quarter million dollars of revenue which will be coming in in terms of hotels and food,” Hamilton said. He later amended his estimate to around 100,000 dollars. 

The Bear is also likely to look different than Grinnell students are used to. A Jumbotron has been installed and extra bleachers have been brought in to accommodate the massive crowds. 

While it is a major undertaking, this is fortunately not the first rodeo for the athletic department. 

Grinnell hosted the National Championships in 2012 and the NCAA was so impressed by Grinnell and the then-brand new Bear, they asked Grinnell specifically to apply to host again in 2016. 

If 2012 was any indicator, the relay events are likely to be the most competitive and the most popular of the weekend’s festivities. 

“It was just wall-to-wall people,” Hamilton said of the 2012 relays. “There were probably 1,500 or 2,000 people hovering over the track for the final relays.” 

Freeman was unsurprised that Grinnell was selected to host again. When asked why Grinnell deserved the honor, Freeman said proudly, “I think it’s just a combination of that we did such a great job last time and that our venue is just spectacular.”

Sadly, no Grinnell athletes will be competing this year as none qualified for Nationals. However, the track and field teams will gain valuable experience from watching some of the best Division III athletes in the country. 

Above everything else, Freeman wants to give the student-athletes the best experience they could ask for at Nationals.

“The thing we are most excited about is to provide an outstanding meet for the National Championship,” Freeman said. “There are so few people in the country that qualify that you want to make it the best that it could be because they earned this special experience.” 

While the work ahead is daunting, Cooprider feels that the College and its personnel are fully up to the task. 

“I wouldn’t say we are nervous about anything at this point. We have a lot of terrific professionals on campus and as long as we have our entire team working hard we’ll be ready to face and tackle any problems or situations that might come our way,” Cooprider wrote.

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