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The Dartmouth
February 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Letter to the Editor: On the State of Men’s Cross Country and Track and Field

Major changes need to be made to the men’s cross country and track and field programs.

Re: Coaching changes, athlete turnover and injuries abound: Former men’s cross country and track runners expose challenges of past two years

From 1980 to 2020, coaches Vin Lananna and Barry Harwick ’77 turned the Dartmouth men’s running program into an East Coast powerhouse. Dartmouth was a national contender, producing many All-Ivy runners and more than a few All-Americans. But in just three years, the Marjorie and Herbert Chase ’30 track and field and cross country director Porscha Dobson Harnden, aided by our dysfunctional athletic department, has effectively gutted the program. It will take years to recover if ever it does. 

Harnden came on board as the program’s new director in 2020. Since then, she vetted, recruited and hired two men’s distance coaches. Neither made it past their first year. The program now stands in shambles. Given the program’s poor performance and unprecedented instability, why would any high school distance runner choose Dartmouth? 

To make matters worse, neither Harnden nor Dartmouth Athletics Director Mike Harrity will meaningfully communicate with runners, parents or alumni. Why did former head coach Justin Wood mysteriously resign a year ago? Why was former head coach Sean McNulty thought to be a suitable — or even competent — replacement? Apparently, it’s none of our business. Without any explanation, forgive us for concluding that it’s unlikely that the future under Harnden will be any better than the brief and terrible past. 

It falls upon President Sian Beilock to do the right thing. But will Beilock be influenced by her years at the University of Chicago, where there is no passion for athletics? Let’s hope not. 

Beilock says that she seeks to promote dialogue on campus. Over the last few weeks, Casque & Gauntlet senior society — boasting many track and field alumni — donated $2.25 million to support her Dartmouth Dialogue Project. If she is not ready to immediately fire Harnden and Harrity, then I call upon her to invite runners, parents and alumni to a dialogue on the state of the men’s running program. I suggest that we all meet in Leverone Field House after the Dartmouth Home Meet this Saturday, Feb. 10.

Letters to the Editor represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.