"We believe track and field is an excellent addition to our current athletic offerings," Daugherty noted. "Track and field brings a program for both men and women with healthy roster sizes, and one that complements our existing cross country programs. The National Federation of State High School Associations show over one million high school students competing in the sport, listing it number one on the list for women and 2nd on the list for men, behind football. In the six-state region of Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas where a large majority of our students come from, participation numbers in track and field are over 200,000 students, giving us access to a great pool of potential student-athletes to recruit to JBU."
The new programs will fall under the direction of current head men's and women's cross country coach, Scott Schochler. An intercollegiate cross country and marathon student-athlete at Oklahoma Baptist University, Schochler has led the Golden Eagle cross country programs since 2013. During his tenure, he has coached Annie Brown '17 to a spot in the 2015 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships in the marathon and has helped current senior Josh Uzelac '19 to three consecutive appearances at the NAIA Men's Cross Country National Championships.
"This is an opportunity I have been hoping for since I came to JBU," admitted Schochler. "There are some great track and field student-athletes we now have the ability to attract to JBU. I am extremely excited to continue the process of building this program, along with cross country, into very competitive teams that represent the university and the Golden Eagles well."
Schochler will begin recruiting immediately and hopes to recruit 15 new student-athletes for the 2019-20 campaign. The 28 members of the men's and women's cross country teams will be immediately eligible to compete in both sports. Schochler hopes to have 60 student-athletes total in the cross country and track and field programs by the 2021-22 academic year.
Men's and women's track and field are already sponsored sports, both indoor and outdoor, by the Sooner Athletic Conference. As of 2018-19, nine conference institutions sponsored track and field programs. Track and field also enjoys healthy membership numbers in the NAIA, with just shy of 200 institutions of the 251 total members sponsor the sport.
Technically speaking, John Brown University is reviving the track and field programs. Highlighted by Roger Vann's back-to-back NAIA All-America honors in the marathon in 1975 and 1976, the latter of which he earned the national title, the Golden Eagles offered men's track and field over a period of three decades, from the 1960's through the 1980's. JBU stalwarts such as Jim Pearson, Cliff Crowder, Leo Setian, Don Cleek and Ed Renfrow have all manned the helm of the program in prior decades. The women's track and field program was active from the mid 1970's through the early 1980's.
While the grass track around Alumni Field was once the home of JBU track and field, John Brown University also announced a landmark partnership with the Siloam Springs School District to renovate Glenn W. Black Stadium, which will provide shared use of the track and field. The soon-to-be renovated venue is located at Siloam Springs Middle School, just a half mile from campus. Under the memorandum of understanding, JBU will cover 50 percent of the cost of the track renovation, up to $400,000. The first priority will be to rebuild the track sub-surface and install a higher-quality running surface. The interior ends of the track will be made more functional for field events and a steeple chase pit area will be installed on the south end of the track.
The SSSD will complete additional work to upgrade the facilities, including removing the west stands and renovating the public restrooms in the east stands. Most of the work will be done by district facilities and staff.
The memorandum enables JBU to use the track for 12 years, or until the track needs resurfacing, whichever is longer. At that time, the partnership can be renewed for an additional 12 years with each school covering half the cost of the track resurfacing.
"We are deeply grateful to the Siloam Springs School District for allowing us to enter into this partnership with them," said JBU President Chip Pollard. "This new track will be a great asset to the school district, John Brown University and the community of Siloam Springs. It is another example of how public and private institutions can work together for the common good. This partnership fits JBU's mission to be a good neighbor, and we see this endeavor to renovate the track as another example of our commitment and our gratitude for being a part of the Siloam Springs community."