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Cross country may come to ABAC

By Dallas Hudgens
Staff Writer

A new sport has appeared on the horizon for ABAC. A mixture of students, faculty, and members of the community are asking ABAC to form a cross country team.
They point out that cross country is a popular lifetime sport and that adding it would push the school to eight athletic teams. Schools need only 10 teams to move up to a four-year athletic division, such as the NAIA or the NCAA. With eight teams, ABAC could seriously consider making a push to a bigger athletic conference.
While the exact cost of cross country has not been established, ABAC would need an increase in the enrollment or an extra athletic fee to pay for the program. However, because cross-country is a relatively cheap sport, the amount of money required by the students would not be too expensive, advocates say.
At the Student Government Association meeting earlier this month, a proposal was advanced to raise the athletic fee by $28, which is roughly a 33 percent increase. Advocates say cross country would be the perfect sport to add at the moment, since it is relatively the cheapest program to add.
Two years ago, ABAC built a 3.1-mile cross country course that ran through the woods behind the horse stables, in front of the farm and then finished up at Lakeside. About 840 middle and high school students ran the first race last fall and an estimated 3,000 spectators arrived on campus to watch the event.
Bringing in this many students could do wonders for ABAC in the future, advocates say, because it allows the athletes and the folks cheering them on to really get a good look at how beautiful ABAC’s campus is. “Once on campus, you really do fall in love with ABAC,” said Athletic Director Alan Kramer.
Cross country has been rapidly growing in popularity over the past decade. In the 2004-5 season, 85 teams, and 695 athletes competed in junior college cross country. Since then, more colleges have adopted the program. During the 2011-2012 season, 125 schools and 1102 athletes competed in cross country.
The SGA asked the college administration to do more research before approving an increase in fees to support cross country.
If ABAC were to adopt a new sport, it would most likely be a sport like cross-country, which is relatively inexpensive so it would affect the students less economically. In addition, maintaining gender equity by fielding both a men’s and women’s team is easier with cross country than it might be in other sports, such as football or wrestling.
Advocates say there is strong backing from the students, faculty, and the community, and suggest that ABAC could very well have another sport somewhere down the line.