UHH women’s cross country program saved
After given a death sentence the University of Hawaii cross country program might have received a last minute reprieve.
In April Vulcan runners were given the news that, due to budget restraints, the Athletic Department decided to cut both the men’s and women’s programs.
“We were devastated,” UHH cross country coach Jaime Guerpo said.
Guerpo broke the news to his team four weeks ago as the cuts were necessitated to save the athletic department $100,000 or 10 percent of their overall budget and cross country was targeted to receive the death blow.
Since that time Guerpo had spearheaded a community campaign to try and raise the necessary funds to keep the program alive.
“I feel it’s my duty to try everything in my power to keep this program going,” the veteran Vulcan coach said.
Many people sympathetic to the cross country demise have made pledges of various amounts which has given new life to a once doomed program.
“We seem to have generated enough funds to keep the women’s program alive as travel cost were our main concern,” Guerpo said. “Not enough money for the men to compete, although I feel very bad for my returning runners, but I guess that’s how it has to be right now.”
The Vulcan women will run a bare bones program with no scholarships being offered, but interest and commitments are still running high.
“I have four committed runners to the program and I’m still looking for more walk-ons,” Guerpo said.
Stephanie Adams from Boulder City, Nevada, Jordan Bledsoe from Omaha, Nebraska, Nadia Ramirez from Hilo and Brithany Ariga from Kamehameha-Hawaii have all committed to running for the Vulcan’s in the Fall according to Guerpo.
The UHH squad will be made up of all new faces as none of the veteran runners are either eligible or interested in coming back, at least at the present time according to Guerpo.
“We’re going to start our summer training in June and if there are any women interest in walking on they should call or email me immediately,” Guerpo said.
To keep the program going Guerpo has agreed to a 50 percent pay cut and believes that the entire amount needed to fund his women’s programs travel cost is $20,000.
“I just got a call from Carole Kai of the Great Aloha Run and they have committed a large amount for our travel cost so I am very optimist that we will be able to keep this program going for years to come,” he said.
UHH athletic director, Dexter Irvin, was equally enthusiastic about resurrecting the women harriers.
“We are very excited to be able to resume our women’s cross country program,” Irvin said.
In a UHH press release Irvin was quoted as saying “Community support has made next season possible. The funds raised will cover interisland travel for the squad.”
Guerpo will enter his 12th season at the helm of UHH cross country and Irvin has announced that a two year suspension of the men’s program will stay in tack.
“Credit goes to Coach Guerpo,” Irvin said in the UHH press release. “He knows the situation the department is in and accepted the challenge to keep the program running despite the loss of operating and scholarship funds as well as his salary.”
The UHH women will remain in the PacWest and be limited to a five race season which includes the UHH Invitational.
Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Chaminade University and Hawaii Pacific University will also host PacWest meets and the UHH women will be provided the opportunity to participate in the PacWest Championships.
“We had to make a tough decision to keep our athletic department in the black,” Irvin said in a phone interview. “When looking at making cuts we wanted to affect the fewest number of student/athletes and coaches and that is why we targeted cross country in order maintain our fiscal responsibility.”
Irvin expressed his desire to revisit the men’s program and was hopeful that UHH could bring the men back in 2013.
“It is an extremely difficult decision to make these cuts,” Irvin said of keeping the men’s program on suspension.
“We’re feeling the pain in higher education and in the athletic department we are only able to fund our conference schedule,” Irvin said.
Irvin was asked if he would consider any coaches request to give up a small portion of their budget to help the cross country program and he replied with an emphatic “no”.
“Every one of our teams are on a minimal budget and I would not allow them to voluntarily cut their budget even further as this would put our athletes at risk,” he said.
Irvin explained that the budget crisis he faces for his 250 student/athletes is so complex that it would be difficult to paint a clear picture during this interview.
In the meantime women’s cross country has survived due to the generosity of the public and the willingness of the coach to operate on a travel only budget.
Guerpo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.