Porscha Dobson hired as new track and field and cross country director

by Benjamin Ashley and Andrew Doerr | 10/16/20 2:00am

porscha_dobson
Source: Courtesy of the Dartmouth Athletics Department

Porscha Dobson has been named the new director of Dartmouth’s track and field and cross country programs. After coaching for eight years at the University of Pennsylvania, first as an assistant coach and then as assistant head coach for the past two years, Dobson was hired by Dartmouth in September after Barry Harwick ’77 announced his retirement in August.

While Dobson will oversee the cross country program, Courtney Jaworski will remain the head coach of the women’s cross country team, and another coach will be hired to lead the men’s team. Dobson will be more directly involved in the track and field program, acting as head coach and specifically focusing on the sprinters and hurdlers. 

With Dobson’s new role as director of both the men’s and women’s programs, she joins only a handful of women across the NCAA to hold that position and becomes the first African American woman in Ivy League history to do so.

Dobson said she is honored to make history and hopes to use her new position to help her student-athletes improve both on and off the track.

“It’s definitely eye-opening. It’s humbling. It’s exciting to continue to make history,” Dobson said. “I have been inspired and empowered by the folks who have been before me, including the women that have been before me around the country.”

Dobson added that she is looking forward to her new position and is ready to build on Harwick’s success.

“[I’m] very excited about the opportunity to be the next director of track and field and cross country at Dartmouth,” Dobson said. “[Harwick], before me, laid a foundation … I definitely feel very prepared and very excited and motivated to come in and begin to improve [the program] in Hanover.”

Men’s cross country runner Owen Ritz ’21 said Dobson’s experience at Penn has shown that she knows what it takes to improve a program.

“I think it’s really exciting,” Ritz said. “[Dobson] was at Penn for a really long time, and I think she just created a culture of success and winning there. … [Dobson] has a really exciting vision for taking Dartmouth and undergoing a similar type of transformation.”

At Penn, Dobson helped lead the Quakers to five Ivy League championship titles. Along the way, she coached five NCAA All-Americans, in addition to 55 All-Ivy League athletes.

“My progress and my success at Penn are definitely one of the main reasons I was chosen to lead the program at Dartmouth,” Dobson said. “I have been able to see what it takes to become a more successful program: what it takes to move up, what it takes to change positively. … I’m really just using those skills and applying them here at Dartmouth.”

Although Dobson acknowledged that Harwick will be difficult to replace after his 28 years at Dartmouth, she believes she is the right choice to continue to lead the program.

“Definitely some big shoes to fill, however, I’m super excited to fill them, and I believe I’m a perfect person to go ahead and build upon the foundation he has raised,” Dobson said. “I’m really looking forward to building an all-around program at Dartmouth.”

The track athletes at Dartmouth are also excited about Dobson’s hiring. Zoe Dainton ’22, a women’s jumper, is eager to learn from an accomplished athlete and coach like Dobson.

“[Dobson] went to [the University of North Carolina], and she’s obviously a very talented athlete,” Dainton said. “… I know that in the times that I have met with her over Zoom, she’s been very energetic and excited to be here, which is very nice.”

Women’s sprinter Caroline Walter ’21, who has known Dobson since her high school recruiting visits to Penn, is also excited to work with the new director. Walter believes that Dobson is what the team needs to improve on its last-place finish at the Ivy League Heps last season.

“I feel like she’s kind of what we needed in the program. Last year was really tough for Dartmouth track with the death of [head coach of women’s track and field Sandy Ford-Centonze],” Walter said. “And following that, we didn’t have great performances at our championships, so [Dobson has] recognized that there are some changes that need to be made.”

One of Dobson’s first challenges as director has been starting her job during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Dainton and Walter, who currently both live off campus, have appreciated Dobson’s ability to keep a sense of normalcy.

Dainton said that her training this term is similar to what it would have looked like during a normal term. The team still lifts three times per week and does intervals once per week, but athletes have been forced to adapt their training regimens because not all members of the team are able to access the athletic facilities on campus.

Despite the team’s recent woes, Dainton feels that Dobson’s hiring marks the beginning of a positive change in the program.

“This is going to be a very new era for Dartmouth track and field because [Barry Harwick and Sandy Ford-Centonze] were both coaches for 30 years,” Dainton said. “And obviously, [Dobson] is very young and very talented, so everyone’s really excited to see the changes she makes.”