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The Scarlet & Black

DIII Indoor Track and Field Nationals Come to Grinnell

By Max Mindock

Grinnell College will take the greatest advantage yet of its new athletic facilities next month when it hosts the national NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 9-10. The event will be the culmination of years of planning.

“When Russell Osgood was here as president, I’d never met the guy and he sent me an email kind of out of the blue,” Head Track Coach Will Freeman said. “He had just started here, and he said ‘what would it take to host major national events here?’ Now we weren’t even in the process of planning [The Bear] at the time, but that sort of prompted the whole discussion.”

The email led to an in-person meeting.

“I remember laying out on a napkin, drawing it over coffee at the Forum—that’s the first time I’d ever met him—what the design of the track would really need to be like and that’s the way they built it, on that footprint,” Freeman said.

The college placed a bid to host the National Championships before the Fieldhouse was even completed.

“[The bid] was all based on drawing and renderings and then we were selected just before we came into the building itself,” Freeman said. “So, [it was] a little bit of a gamble and we were up against a couple of schools that had just finished facilities.”

According to Freeman, Grinnell’s bid benefited from several factors.

“I think what sold it was the community, what it had to offer, and the support of the administration,” he said. “It was pretty clear we thought we could do a pretty good job of this if we had a chance. “

Grinnell had one more asset on its side in Freeman, currently in the last year of his four-year stint as the Chair of the NCAA Division III Track and Field/Cross Country Committee, a position that has given him plenty of experience with National Meets.

“It’s a huge advantage. He really understand that it takes to put on a meet,” said NCAA Intern Paul Gagne ‘10, who has been heavily involved in the organization of the meet.

When the bid was accepted, Freeman found himself experiencing a range of emotions.

“It was wonderful, scary, you know, but wonderful,” Freeman said.

Coach Freeman believes Grinnell will be representing more than just the town.’

“It’s not just a feather in the cap to the school but it’s a chance to bring people to Iowa,” Freeman said. “It’s not too often that Iowa gets these kinds of thing.”

In order to properly showcase Iowa, Freeman thought of somebody who would be especially good at representing the state.

“I thought why not invite the Governor, thinking you know, he’s busy, he’s probably not going to want to come to this banquet the night before the event starts,” Freeman said. “Then I got an email from him: he’s coming.”

Planning began in the Fall of 2011 with arrangements for food, a television broadcast and other aspects providing plenty to tackle. Extra bleachers are being brought it to accommodate up to 1,400 people. Darby Gymnasium will be converted into a check-in and warm up center while the Auxiliary Gym will be used as an athlete lounge and “Championship Cafe.”

The NCAA requires an admission fee for the National Meet, however President Kington decided to allocate money for student tickets. Roughly a week before the meet, students, faculty and staff will be able to pick up a ticket free of charge that they can then exchange on the day of the meet for a wristband valid for admission for both meet days.

“We’re very fortunate that our President recognizes the fact that our students, faculty and staff don’t normally pay, so he’s volunteered to give us a certain allotment of tickets to give to students, faculty, and staff that want to attend,” said Athletic Director Greg Wallace.

Students should not worry about a shortage of tickets, as long as they get them early.

“As long as we have enough people come early in the week, he will definitely up that amount of money and buy more tickets if that interest is there,” Gagne said.

Last year’s meet hosted athletes representing over 80 schools and this year’s will have similar numbers. The meet will require many volunteers to run smoothly and Grinnell students are encouraged to come out and help. Shifts will be kept short at four hours and if you volunteer you will be given free admission with no need for a ticket. Students interested in volunteering should attend one of three meetings on Feb. 9 at 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. in 205F of the Bear Athletic Facility.

“There are some doubts about our ability to host this meet because of the size the town that we’re in and were here to prove that despite some difficulties that arise … we are a place that can put on the best Indoor Track Nationals ever. That’s really been the goal since day one,” Gagne said.

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