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In March, Whitman College athletes participated in the first meet of the college’s new NCAA-recognized distance track program in McMinnville, Oregon.

It was a strong showing — with eight runners qualifying for the Northwest Conference Championships. Unfortunately, the inaugural meet was also the last of the season, as the NCAA announced March 12 the suspension of the remainder of the winter and spring seasons in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.

It was a heartbreaking turn of events for the college’s scholar-athletes. The women’s basketball team was in the process of traveling to its Sweet 16 match up for the NCAA Division III basketball tournament when the decision was made.

Baseball, lacrosse, golf and tennis were also impacted by the cancellations. The men’s basketball season ended during the first round of the tournament in early March.

The women’s swimming team finished its season strong, claiming its fourth consecutive Northwest Conference title at the championship in mid-February. Swimming coach Jenn Blomme was honored with the Northwest Conference Coach of the Year award. The men’s team earned third place in the championship.

In spite of the disappointment of the season ending early, Whitman Athletics remains excited to add distance track to its roster of sports. The college formalized its nontraditional cross country season as an NCAA-recognized distance track program in February.

The program makes it possible for Whitman’s runners to compete in national championships without adding additional coaching staff or expenses for the college, Athletic Director Kim Chandler said. Read more about the distance track program.