Guilford hosts track event for the first time


Guilford College

Guilford College and Visit Winston-Salem will host the 2021 NCAA Division III Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships at the JDL Fast Track on March 12-13, 2021. This will be the first time Guilford hosts a national track event.

On April 18, it was officially announced that Guilford College and Visit Winston-Salem will be co-hosting the 2021 Division III Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships. It will be Guilford’s first time hosting a national track event. The announcement was made in the days following the removal of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s ban on the state of North Carolina from hosting championship events.

The ban was originally enacted due to the NCAA’s opposition towards House Bill 2. HB2, which eliminated anti-discrimination measures protecting the LGBTQIA community and mandated that transgender people use restrooms according to their sex at birth, was at odds with the NCAA’s commitment towards ensuring a “safe, healthy, discrimination free atmosphere for all those watching and participating in (their) events.”

The ban was lifted after North Carolina legislature repealed the section regarding the use of bathroom facilities days after the NCAA stated that they would not hold any championship events in the state from 2018-2022 if the bill was not repealed within the week of the statement.

First-year Hannah Helgeson believes that HB2 gave North Carolina a poor reputation.

“I thought (HB2)  was transphobic and archaic,” said Helgeson. “Being able to use the bathroom shouldn’t cause that big of a commotion.”

By meeting the NCAA’s demands, North Carolina narrowly avoided losing an estimated $250 million in revenue from NCAA-affiliated events.

“I think there was a lot of concern across the state and with the state’s legislature that North Carolina was missing out greatly on not just NCAA events, but other large scale entertainment events that bring both revenue and attention to the state,” said Sports Information Director and Assistant Athletic Director Dave Walters. “I think it was a real impetus to bring a change about the legislation.”

The championships will be held at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem. The JDL Fast Track previously hosted the Division III Championships in 2015 and Division II Championships in 2014.

“In terms of indoor track and field facilities, (the JDL Fast Track) is the newest, and it is the best,” Walters said. “The facility is on the NCAA’s radar as being fit to host this kind of event.”

Guilford will partner with Visit Winston-Salem, the city’s tourism information center, in order to hold the event.

“The NCAA requests that there is a member that works in conjunction with whatever organizing body there may be to organize an event,” Walters said. “I don’t think Guilford by itself necessarily has the wherewithal to put on these grand events, but when working in conjunction with groups like Visit Winston-Salem or JDL Fast Track, we can provide a great experience.”

Men’s head coach Danny Cash cited recruitment as being a benefit to Guilford co-hosting the track and field championships.

“Everywhere the NCAA posts information about the championships is an opportunity for a high school coach or athlete to see Guilford’s name,” Cash said in an email interview. “As those student-athletes and their coaches are searching for track programs, Guilford now has a better chance of being contacted because of it’s hosting the NCAA’s. As a small program, any chance we have to get our name out opens doors.”

According Walters, hosting the event can bolster Guilford’s reputation.

“Anytime our school is affiliated with a national championship event, it’s going to receive an extra measure of attention,” Walters said. “ It’s really an honor, and it reflects favorably on the institution. It’s a great opportunity to show people who may not otherwise be familiar with Guilford that we can put on a great event.”