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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.

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