MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury College celebrated the first intercollegiate track-and-field meet inside Virtue Field House on January 16 with a victory over three other colleges and an unofficial homecoming for alumni runners of all ages.
Hundreds of students, graduates, and friends of Middlebury track and field stood and cheered for Dixon Hemphill ’49 as the 91-year-old crossed the finish line for the alumni one-mile run in a time of 15 minutes and four seconds.
Hemphill, from Fairfax Station, Va., was joined on his final lap around the track by about 20 men and women alumni who had finished their one-mile races just a few minutes earlier. The impromptu showing of support for Hemphill was “a touching moment,” said Martin Beatty ’84, head coach of men’s and women’s track and field.
“Dixon was the star of the day,” the veteran coach said. “His determination taught us all a lesson about track and field being a lifetime sport.”
The first event at the 2016 Middlebury Winter Classic was the women’s one-mile run with five alumnae entrants. Middlebury’s president, Laurie L. Patton, was the guest starter for the race, and before asking the runners to take their marks, Patton commemorated the event by welcoming everyone to Virtue Field House, which opened during the winter of 2015.
Summer Spillane, Class of 2015, won the alumni women’s one mile in 5:40, followed closely by Sarah Guth ’15 in second place and Sarah O’Brien ’13 in third.
The next race was the alumni men’s one-mile run, and there were 18 entrants in the event including Edward Pinkerton ’64 and the Class of 1949’s Hemphill. At the start of the race all eyes were on Jack Davies ’13, Middlebury’s former record-holder at the distance, as the lanky runner opened up a sizable lead on the first lap. Davies cruised to a 4:24 victory, with a cluster of five alumni finishing behind him in under five minutes. Pinkerton, of Island Pond, Vt., crossed the line in 12 minutes and 46 seconds, while the nonagenarian, Hemphill, still had more than a lap of the 200-meter track to go. Hemphill received a standing ovation when he crossed the finish line accompanied by the other alumni runners.
There were still two more alumni events to go before the Middlebury varsity track and field team would square off against Springfield College, Hamilton College, and Castleton State University.
In the alumni women’s 60-meter dash, Sara Sobolewski ’14 and Emily Kerner ’02 were the lone entrants, while the men’s 60-meter dash attracted 10 runners including Bryan Holtzman ’14, Middlebury’s record holder in the 60-meter dash, Kevin Chu ’14, the record holder in the 60-meter high hurdles, and Jason McCallum ’14, the record holder in the pole vault. Holtzman burst out of the starting blocks and matched his school-record time of 7.09 seconds, followed by McCallum, Chu, and Will Bain ’15.
The four-way intercollegiate meet got underway after the alumni events, and it was a superb day for Middlebury as the home team won both of its relay races and took 15 out of 30 individual events. First-year student Lucy Lang broke the school record in the 500-meter run with her time of 1:17.55, and Coach Beatty said the women’s and men’s squads produced “at least eight other performances that rate in the track and field program’s top five in certain events.
Springfield College posed a serious challenge to the Middlebury’s men’s team, but the home team pulled away to win 257.5 to 216.5. The Panther women dominated their field by defeating their next closest rival, Springfield, by 111 points.
Beatty reported after the meet that athletes are finding the New Balance Foundation Track to be very fast. “That’s exactly what we were hoping for when we picked this surface during the planning for the building. It is soft enough to train on and yet it’s fast enough to produce great meet results,” he said.
The next home track and field meet inside Virtue Field House will be the two-day Middlebury Invitational on January 29-30. Friday’s events will get underway at 3 p.m. while Saturday’s will start at 11 a.m. The public is welcome to attend free of charge.
– Photos by Brett Simison and Teddy Anderson ‘13.5; reporting by Robert Keren