Running down a dream

Written by: Veronica Furman

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Mercer will be introducing a women’s cross country team in fall 2010. The team will be coached by Erin Cahill, an administrative specialist in the athletics office at Mercer. Cahill holds a Master’s degree in Physical Education from TCNJ, where she ran on the varsity cross country team.

Cahill says she intends to recruit runners by contacting cross country coaches at local high schools.

Mercer’s Athletics Director, John Simone says, “Initially we’re going to grow slow but we think that our participation will be from new students who will come to the college who normally wouldn’t come to this college.”

Cahill says a few students have already expressed interest and she hopes to entice a few recruits from other community colleges in the area that don’t offer cross country by offering them in-county tuition rates.

Simone says that he has entertained the idea of adding another women’s sports team for a while. “We wanted to grow to one more sport, which keeps us more closely aligned with the other community colleges in the state of New Jersey in terms of growth…cross country was the one we studied and felt that was the best since seven or eight other community colleges already have cross country…we felt this would align beautifully,” Simone said.

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The addition of another women’s sports team will also serve to help Mercer’s standing under Title IX, a law affirming equal educational rights for both men and women, first enacted in 1972. Presently this statute has come to be most closely associated with equal gender rights and representation concerning sports teams.

According to Simone, for every 20 male athletes to a sports team at Mercer, the corresponding women’s team has about 16; the new women’s cross country team will aid the Mercer athletics department’s “quest to increase women’s participation in sports on campus.”

Cahill says, “Our male teams have a few more athletes than the female teams…so we’re just trying to get that ratio of male to female athletes as close to 50-50 as possible. So we’re hoping that if we could add six to ten women [to sports teams] we could be close to that 50-50.”

To be eligible for the team Cahill says she is not requiring that runners have high school cross country experience, but that they must meet basic fitness requirements and appear capapble of managing the busy competition and training schedule in addition to maintaining their course work.

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