It was 1981 and the first season of Smith College’s
track and field program. The same year, Smith became the first women’s college
to join the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
This past February, approximately 40 Smith alumnae
and former coaches returned to campus to celebrate the silver anniversary of track
and field and cross country as intercollegiate sports. They came to honor the 25-year
history as well as cheer on the 2006 team competing among 12 schools on February
4 in the Tartan Coed Invitational hosted by Smith. In the women’s team standings,
Smith finished eighth.
Remembering the first intercollegiate season, Smith’s
first track and field coach, psychology professor Peter de Villiers, described taking
his 21-member track and field team to Amherst College three days a week for practice
on Amherst’s indoor dirt track. The team worked around the schedules of the
Amherst teams, sometimes practicing late into the evening, and still managed, in
its first indoor season, to send five runners to the EAIAW (Eastern Association of
Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) Division III Indoor Championships. In 1985 Smith
started improving its own facilities, adding a new all-weather, 400-meter eight-lane
track, followed in 1986 by an indoor track and tennis facility.
Joining de Villiers and other former coaches in the
celebration was current coach Carla Coffey who took over the program in 1992 and
has an impressive record. Coffey has twice been named NEWMAC (New England Women’s
and Men’s Athletic Conference) Coach of the Year (1997, 2004), three of her
students have been named NEWMAC Athletes of the Year and 10 have achieved All-American
status. She is also finishing up a three-year term as vice president of the U.S.
Women’s Track Coaches Association.
During the 25th anniversary of Smith’s track and field
and cross country teams, old photos were displayed and new ones taken. Many of the
former team members and coaches, including Professor Peter de Villiers, center back
row, gathered for a group photograph to celebrate their reunion.