As the spring season for athletics is rounding the corner, many athletes have come forward to acknowledge that lacing up and competing under red and black will soon be over. St. Cloud State’s Interim Director of Media Relations Tom Nelson confirmed a minimum of 16 athletes from the men’s track and field team have announced they will be transferring schools this fall.
This all has taken place since the school administration’s March 2 announcement that as many as six sports were being cut in a cost-saving effort. Altogether, sports affected include men’s and women’s tennis, men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, men’s cross country and women’s Nordic ski. Many athletes are still deciding what their next move will be for the upcoming year.
For the men’s track and field team, not all are splitting ways. So far six huskies have announced they will become mavericks in a transfer for MSU Mankato. Others have confirmed they are leaving, but1 have not announced their school of choice for the fall.
For three huskies in particular, their bond runs beyond being teammates: they’re actually family. Brothers Isiah Pitchford, Elijah Pitchford and their cousin Keyshawn Davis decided to make the switch to MSU together.
“I’ve never really liked purple, but I guess I’ll have to get used to it,” Isiah laughed. “It’s kind of funny because when I was in high school our colors were red and black, and our rival was purple.”
His younger brother Elijah agreed, “I don’t really have purple in my wardrobe, so it’s kind of hard to go that way, but it’s probably the best decision for me.
“The whole reason I came here [St. Cloud State] was for track and for sports management. To know that everyone is going to Mankato, and they wanted me, it was nice to know I would have familiar faces there,” Elijah said.
Before being able to look too far ahead, the crew is still finishing out the final season for St. Cloud State’s men’s track and field team. Many athletes have acknowledged the difficulty of staying positive while knowing the sport is being eliminated. But, athletes like Davis say it’s provided even more encouragement to end strong.
“It makes me want to go out with a bang because it’s the last season St. Cloud men’s track will ever have. I want to set a precedent,” Davis said. “Just because adversity hits you, you don’t have to stop doing what you’re doing. We’re going to give it everything we’ve got until the end. It’s not the end of our track career, it’s still something to build on.”
Others beyond the men’s team are being affected by the loss. The women’s track and field team has joined the chorus of those upset with the cut of their program’s other half.
Sophomore athlete Natalie Gottschalk said, “It’s sad, I’m watching all my friends leave and figure out their lives. At the same time, you have to be supportive and help them out because they’re the ones having to go through transferring and all that stuff.” She plans to stick with track, but she said it will be very different.
“Mankato is already such a powerhouse in the track and field area, so adding these guys on top of that is just going to make them even better,” Gottschalk said. “For the most part, I’m just excited for what they’re going to do in the future. Hopefully it’ll be successful things. It’s still sad. It’s going to be weird seeing them in purple instead of black and red.”
Although some women have decided the cuts to the men’s team have signaled it’s time for them to quit competing, many of the women will still be coming back.
Gottschalk said, “We have a lot of good women coming in, I think the team morale is still going to be there. We are just going to have to do things a bit differently, communicate differently and bring our own energy to the track. It’s going to be sad, it’s breaking a family apart either way.”
With only seven meets left to go, the team’s next competition will be taking place at Drake on April 28. Their final NCAA Outdoor Championship meet will be May 28 in Bradenton, FL.