Headline: UC Davis cuts men’s indoor track program
Layercake: Aggies now focus on outdoor track with a longer offseason
By MARCOS RODRIGUEZ
Aggie Sports Writer
A program that has been alive since 1993 was discontinued about two and half weeks ago along with three other sports.
While the team still has outdoor track to fall back on this summer, their disappointment in a premature end to the season is unquestioned.
All the men’s indoor track team can do now is ponder the question: What could have been?
“We wanted to make the nationals, but won’t get the opportunity,” said Matt Sartori, who is one of two captains for the Aggies team. “I guess we just have to focus on outdoor.”
It remains a tough pill to swallow for the Aggies who are coming off a second place finish in last season’s Big West Conference Championships with two high hurdlers advancing to the national finals.
Coach Jon Vochatzer has almost three decades of coaching experience at various levels. Yet all that could not make him any less poignant when delivering the crushing news to the team.
“The indoor track has been a big part of the program,” Vochatzer said. “It was a great recruiting tool for us. We have to regroup and look at what we can do to fill the gap.”
That’s Vochatzer’s focus this summer. It isn’t time for the team or coaching staff to hang their heads, but to find ways to make sure indoor competition remains a staple of their program.
“Some questions are still unanswered,” he said. “It hit the guys pretty hard. We’re not going to be lying around. We’re going to get something done.”
What makes his task difficult is that there are no indoor track facilities in California. As a result, competition has been expensive because the Aggies are forced to travel to out of state meets. The two closest facilities for the Aggies are in Washington and Boise, Idaho.
Alex Wilright, the other team captain, tried to take a more positive outlook.
“I feel in the long run it could help other sports stay around,” he said. “It doesn’t really affect us too much.”
Wilright, primarily a 400m hurdler, shared in Sartori’s disappointment that he couldn’t compete in the indoor nationals.
The cuts provide not only uncertainty in the upcoming season, but their training in the offseason as well.
“The season will be a little shorter,” Sartori said. “We need to train harder. We will do more base work and hold off on the speed work.”
Vochatzer said that he believes the cuts were hardest on the seniors. They lose both in indoor competition and all the expectations they had before the season.
“You make plans for that [senior] year,” Vochatzer said. “We have to put some things out there for [the seniors] to grab onto.”
For Sartori, he hopes the coach’s plans allow him to continue climbing up the all-time program record list.
Wilright, meanwhile, doesn’t feel the cuts will have a big effect on the program as a whole, but it does take away from preparation of outdoor track. As he put it, it’s like having the preseason of a basketball schedule taken out.
Whatever you call it, the athletes have to feel a little less conditioned with the shortened season.
Nevertheless, Vochatzer will use some of that coaching creativity to keep indoor meets going for the Aggies. He hopes to add some of these meets during the fall as preparation for the outdoor track competitions.
This continues to be a transitional process for the Aggies and one that Vochatzer has never had to deal with as coach.
Despite this new experience, Vochatzer puts the onus on himself to make sure the team continues to stay focused and not worry about having been dealt the short end of the stick.
He does know, however, that the gap between cutting and adding a sports program is monumental.
“It could come back eventually,” Vochatzer said. “It’s easy to cut, but it’s hard to bring back.”
Vochatzer takes comfort in the fact that part of his program is still able to compete and characterizes the cuts as a lost opportunity for his team.
In other words, they’re down, but definitely not out.
MARCOS RODRIGUEZ can be reached at email@example.com.