Preparations for the sport’s return begin this summer, the college announced.
Featured in the Gloucester Township Patch by Anthony Bellano
After 30 years, track and field is coming back to Camden County College, and the college’s first national champion in the sport is eager to see it happen.
“To hear that the college has committed to bringing back this sport that is available to so many and is building the facilities needed to host practices right on campus is fantastic,” said Mike Chapman, a former track star at the college who is in the Camden County College Sports Hall of Fame.
Chapman is eager to attend the meets and be involved in the debut event, likely in January. The track and field season will run from January through May. There is no limit on the number of students who can participate, and the college encourages all interested students to try out.
“I graduated in 1972, and we had a state undefeated team until they ended the sport. There were 50 team members at that time,” Chapman said. “Coach Dennis Hurley made me set three goals: graduate on time, become a national junior college champion, and get a four-year college scholarship. I achieved all three goals because I was junior college national champion in the javelin. I received offers for full track and field scholarships from nine universities and ended up attending Arizona State University. Camden County College got me ready for this.”
After graduating from Arizona State, Chapman spent 35 years in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he also coached the throwers at Scottsdale Community College. Ten years ago, he moved back to South Jersey and has been coaching at Bishop Eustace. He plans to help out with the college team as well.
Preparations for the upcoming season will begin this summer, when the college will begin upgrades to its facilities, including throwing cages, hurdles, concrete pads, and clearing space for a track upgrade.
“We want to provide our students with many opportunities for success both academically and athletically,” said Camden County College Director of Athletics Bill Banks, who said the sport is returning based solely on enrollment and student support. “Adding new sports teams brings in students who might have skipped over community college and gone right to a four-year school. This gives them a chance to excel at a sport they love, or several sports, while getting the academic supports needed to transfer and obtain scholarships that might not have been available to them otherwise.”
“I believe students are savvy and are coming to terms with the fact that it is not only a better financial decision to pursue their college careers at a local community college, but there are also opportunities to pursue activities similar to those offered at four year schools,” Camden County College President Donald Borden said. “We offer 13 different sports, and over 20 student clubs and organizations, all of which provide excellent leadership and networking opportunities. This leads to extended scholarship opportunities for the second two years of college, and, if nothing else, important job skills.”
Camden County College cross country coach Wayne Merkh is excited to have another sport in which runners will have the chance to showcase their skills.
“Many of our student athletes participate in more than one sport, and adding track and field provides a cross training that many of them find so valuable,” Merkh said.