MOUNT OLIVE - At any given time of the day, you can wander around the University of Mount Olive campus and see the baseball team practicing on Scarborough Field; the soccer teams running sprints across Amon Field; the volleyball and basketball teams working hard in Kornegay Arena; or the tennis team rallying on the John Neal Walker Tennis Center courts. You may also notice the track and field team sprinting around campus on any relatively flat surface they can find, or you might see them trooping onto a bus, heading to practice at a high school an hour away. Despite their obvious disadvantage, the track and field team is at the top of almost every event in which they compete. Seemingly, the only thing they haven’t found is a track to call home.
All that may be changing in the near future with fundraising efforts for a future track and field complex now firmly underway. The “Realizing the Dream; Securing the Future,” capital campaign at UMO aims to raise $3 million to complete two designated phases of construction for the track and field complex. Phase one will see an eight-lane 400 meter track constructed, along with an artificial surface field within the boundaries of the track, as well as areas for throws and jumps. Phase two will take the complex to the next level, adding stadium seating, scoreboards, locker rooms, a fitness center and much more, transforming the facility into a hub for both the school and the community.
UMO Athletic Director Jeff Eisen says, “The complex will become a focal point of campus, helping to attract and retain students, while also allowing the University to better serve the local community.”
One of the students who could benefit from a new track and field complex is rising track star Chelsea van Dijk, a freshman criminal justice major. van Dijk is an outstanding addition to the Trojan track team, and came to the United States after an illustrious running career in the Netherlands. In her first year she has taken home Conference Carolinas medals in the 200m, 400m, and 400m relay. She has also earned the title of Southeast Region Indoor Track Athlete of the Year following the Trojans successful Conference Carolinas indoor championship.
According to van Dijk, it is hard not having a track of their own. “Emotionally it is a blow,” she said. “Our program is extremely successful, taking championship after championship, and we are breaking records on a near-weekly basis. But no one at the University has been able to see how good the team really is. Any athlete can attest that a supportive home crowd is like an extra man. The cries of encouragement in the dying minutes of a game or as runners round the final bend can be the difference between winning and losing.”
Head coach Matt van Lierop agrees, “There are numerous benefits to a track complex, but the biggest benefit for the track and field teams will be that they will finally have a ‘home.’ The teams have been training on the local roads, parks, campus grounds, and at local high schools. With a new complex, they will be able to train and compete without leaving campus. We’ve come a long way without a track, and we can advance this program to the next level with the construction of this facility.”
The entire campus and community at large could benefit as well. “It’s not just track athletes that would be able to use the track,” Eisen explains. “Other teams would be able to have speed and conditioning workouts in a safe environment. The field could also be used as a lacrosse or soccer game or practice venue. Having a track would also give us the opportunity to host meets and community events.”
The foundations have been built by the program, and the dream has been realized. Although the future is not yet secured, UMO is definitely on the right track. For more information about how to support the University of Mount Olive Track and Field Complex, contact Vice President for Institutional Advancement Dr. John Blackwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or Director of Athletics Jeff Eisen at email@example.com.
The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College. For more information, visit www.umo.edu.