As Steve Kruse finishes up another year as Head Coach of Northern Kentucky University’s Cross-Country teams, he looks forward towards the off-season.
An offseason that, for most cross-country coaches, would include their runners training with the help of the university’s track and field team. This is not so for Kruse.
A true track-and-field team ceases to exist at NKU. It is the only school in the Great Lakes Valley Conference to compete in cross-country, but not track and field. So Kruse and his group of runners are sort of left to fend for themselves. While a true track-and-field team does not exist at NKU, most of the runners on the cross-country team do run on the track and field club. The club was started up by Kruse and is used as a way to keep his players in shape during the off-season.
This chance to compete allows the runners to stay on par with other schools, but it can come at a price. Since the club sport is not a NCAA sanctioned sport at NKU, the runners on the team and Kruse are responsible for coming up with the money to pay most of the costs involved with running.
“Ideally, it would be great to have an official track team at NKU, it’s not likely right now because of the money situation,” said Kruse. “The athletes a lot of the time have to buy their own food and travel expenses. We’re pretty much doing it self-sufficiently.”
Kruse has tried to find ways to come up with some money to be used for the club, including the annual Valentine’s Day race held on campus in February. Kruse says the club, which consists mainly of members of the current cross-country team, has full support from the Athletic Department, and has proven in the past it has the ability to compete with those schools with official track and field teams.
“We run against a lot of schools with track teams and we are very competitive,” Kruse said. “We even compete against a lot of larger schools in the area.”
The club which runs both indoor and outdoor track-and-field events, usually competes off and on from December through the spring semester. They have competed against bigger schools, such as the University of Cincinnati, University of Louisville, Indiana University and University of Dayton. Kruse says this gives his team the chance to see where they stack up against bigger schools.
“It allows us just to see what we have,” said Kruse, “and helps with making us a more competitive team.”
Kruse also explains that the lack of a track team also effects what runners are interested in running for NKU’s cross-country team.
“Track is king,” said Kruse. “It’s a major hurdle to overcome, if you have an athlete who is set on running both track and cross-country while in college.”
Kruse and his teams will continue to find ways of funding their track club, with the hopes of help coming in the future. Kruse, for one, believes that eventually it will happen.
“I think that – down the road – you will see NKU get a track-and-field team,” said Kruse.
For now, he will continue to gatther his teams together in the offseason with their own money and resources. In hopes of making themselves better in order to stay competitive and in shape for the upcoming cross-country seasons.