In Track, the Toughest Race Is Often for Scholarships

By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 24, 2005

Westlake rising junior Corryl Boyd knows the path to a college track scholarship is a numbers game. And those numbers have nothing to do with Boyd's sprint times or jump distances.

The numbers in question are plain to see. NCAA rules allow Division I men's track teams a maximum of 12.6 scholarships per year. That figure keeps schools in compliance with Title IX, the law requiring gender equity at institutions receiving federal aid.

The number of athletes on a Division I track team sometimes exceeds 50. It doesn't take a math major to figure out that Boyd's odds of landing a full track scholarship are not good.

"It's not easy," Boyd said. "There aren't a lot of track scholarships out there for men."

The numbers are not much better on the women's side. The NCAA allows each school to provide up to 18 women's track scholarships, and team rosters are usually the same size as the men's.

"With track, you've got to be able to have opportunities to get to the right meets," said Boyd's sister, Quiteelia, who graduated from Westlake in 2004 and just completed her freshman year at the University of Maryland Baltimore County on a track scholarship that covered her tuition but not room and board.

"If you really want to get seen, it's best to get into a summer league and go to national events," she said. "That's the hard part about it. If you want to be seen by a top school, you have to go to [a meet near the school]. That's what the summer meets are about -- you doing the traveling."

Football coaches such as Maryland's Ralph Friedgen can hop on a plane and visit a recruit on the West Coast on a whim. He has the recruiting budget for that type of scouting. Track coaches don't. Their recruiting is done at large national meets, where they can see dozens of top athletes.

"If you don't go to a national meet, they won't really hear about you," said Northern rising senior Keely Murphy, a distance runner. "They'll go to big national meets to see you, but they won't go to local meets."

Sometimes that isn't enough. Murphy's brother, Ryan, was recruited to run cross-country and distance races at Virginia. But he receives no scholarship money. Murphy said the Cavaliers have only eight scholarships for the men's track program.

This fosters competition among teammates for pieces of the scholarships.

"You want your teammates to do well, but you also want to beat them because you want some money," said Ryan Murphy, who redshirted last season. "People have an idea [of who's getting money], but no one knows for sure."

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