James McCowan ’99 says he first started making plans for an indoor track and field program a few days after he was hired to oversee Vassar’s cross country team and develop a track and field program in 2005. Thanks to a recent anonymous donation to the College, McCowan’s 18-year-old dream has become a reality.
Led by Head Coach Joe Reed, the men’s and women’s teams competed in seven indoor meets over the winter. The women’s team finished first in a 20-team field at an event hosted by Utica (NY) College in January—the men’s team was sixth in an 18-team field at the same event—and Vassar competitors turned in some impressive performances in their first appearance at the Liberty League Indoor Track and Field Championships in February. Vassar’s top competitors at the league championships were Jahmilia Dennis ’26, who won the women’s triple jump and finished fourth in the 60-meter hurdles, and Augusta Stockman ’23, who finished second in the mile run and third in the 3,000-meter run.
McCowan, who serves as Head Cross Country Coach and Assistant Track and Field Coach, said the indoor season was invaluable for Stockman, a three-time NCAA qualifier in cross country who has a goal of qualifying for the NCAA Division III outdoor track and field championships in the spring. Stockman earned First Team honors in the Liberty League Cross Country Championships last fall, but her participation on the track team had been curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic in her first two years at Vassar and a semester of study abroad last year. “For the first time, Augusta will have a full year of competition to prep for the Nationals,” the coach said.
Stockman said she “had a blast” competing with the indoor team this winter. “This was a season I never expected to have, so going into races with the mind-set of having nothing to lose and everything to learn has just been really fun and liberating,” she said. “I feel lucky to be part of the inaugural team and am excited about how this sets us up for success in the spring.”
Reed said the indoor season afforded the 75 student-athletes on the Track and Field teams an opportunity to take part in meaningful competition throughout the winter while enabling him to prepare them better for the outdoor season. “I was able to announce last spring that we’d be having an indoor season this year, and everyone on the team was enthusiastic and hungry for the competition,” he said.
The coach said having the opportunity to gauge his athletes’ performances throughout the indoor season would make it easier for him to make decisions on which of them should compete in specific events in the spring. “Seeing the performances of my sprinters in the winter will make it easier for me to put together my relay teams in the spring,” Reed explained.
Reed and McCowan say they’re pleased with the results of their first indoor season, and noted they were fortunate that the mild winter had enabled them to hold many practice sessions at the outdoor track, as Walker Fieldhouse doesn’t allow for event-specific work with many field events like the long and triple jump. A new field house with a competition indoor track facility is among the items to be built following the College’s current $500 million fund-raising campaign, which will be a significant resource for the Track and Field teams. In the meantime, both coaches are excited to keep building ever-stronger teams.