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Avila University student-athletes shocked by decision to drop track and field

Posted at 4:28 PM, Oct 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-31 18:20:06-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It's not injuries that are keeping dozens of Kansas City student-athletes from their sport.

Avila University announced on Friday it would eliminate its indoor and outdoor track and field program.

“Avila University has eliminated the track and field program effective spring 2020 due to budget considerations,” the Kansas City, Missouri-based school said in a statement. “The cross country program will remain. No decision that impacts a group of students like this one is easy or simple. However, facility rentals, meet fees and travel expenses became too great to sustain."

Several student-athletes told 41 Action News they were blindsided by the announcement, which came just a few weeks before the start of the season.

“I just got half of me taken away from me, personally," student-athlete Nancy Chicas said. "This has been the love of my life for the past almost decade."

“Within the first 120 seconds of being in the meeting, he said he was going to cut straight to the chase and just say they’re cutting the indoor and outdoor track and field program and they’re releasing our coach," Tyler King added.

Conditioning began in September for a team that expected to go to nationals this season. On top of practice and class, student-athletes said they had been fundraising all year for the upcoming season.

“They could have said, 'okay, let's lower the meets, let's go local,'" Tenka Stringer said. "That way we can save more money, we could fundraise more, which we were already doing."

As part of the move, the school will eliminate three coaching positions, including head coach Je’Kel Smith and two part-time assistant coaching positions. The decision affects more than three dozen students.

There were 18 student-athletes listed on the Eagles men’s track and field roster for 2019-20, including 12 from Kansas City area high schools, and 19 student-athletes on the women’s roster, including 11 metro area graduates.

With no coach and no team, some student-athletes told 41 Action News they were looking into transferring to another school. But for the seniors like Chicas, that's not an option.

“The only thing I’m looking forward to now is just graduation," Chicas said. "I can’t say anything else. I mean I’m right there, it just kind of blows that I’m not continuing my track career at this point."