In high school, I had dreams of leaving home to run at the collegiate level. I wanted to go out west, fly the coop to Colorado, California or Arizona. Somewhere different. I wanted to visit as many schools as I could and give myself as many options as possible. The second I received a call from Coach Plaz, that plan changed. I didn't field any more recruiting calls. I didn't make any plans to visit other school. Growing up I was a Golden Gopher fan, but by no means a lifer. Coach Plaz and the Minnesota Track & Field program are what made me a lifer.

Not only were my loves for the University and Athletic Department solidified there, but my love for the city of Minneapolis, and the state of Minnesota was forged here. I truly grew an appreciation for the sense of community each offered. This is what I miss most now living in Jacksonville, FL. Growing up in Minnetonka, my sense of diversity and understanding of any life outside my suburban bubble was slim at best. The opportunity I was given to run Cross Country and Track & Field at Minnesota introduced me to men and women I never would have crossed paths with otherwise. I didn't need new friends entering college. I knew enough students at the U. 75 students from my graduating class opted to attend Minnesota after high school. Without Track & Field, there would have been no impetus for me to exit that safe, familiar suburban bubble. I would have hung around the same people I always had. People who experienced the same things I had, and thought the same way as me. Thankfully, XC & Track forced me to build connections with people that I otherwise never would have.

You learn a lot about the people you share a locker room with every day for 4-5 years. You learn about their lives, their experiences, what they believe and why they believe. I was forced into uncomfortable conversations ranging from family and politics to race and sexual identity. I was thrust into debates that pushed me to view things not just through my lens, but though many other lenses. It changed the way I form opinions and arrive at solutions. There is a challenge put forth when convening daily in the tight quarters of a locker room with 50 or so young adults from varying economic/racial/ethnic/religious/sexual backgrounds: You find common ground. Ultimately, that's what I walked away with after my time with the University of Minnesota Men's Track & Field program. The ability to find common ground with anyone. At the end of the day, that locker room is filled with men that commonly want to succeed. Beyond that, nothing matters. We were all there to do the same thing: Train to compete at the highest possible level we could, and become men along the way.

Removing this program removes much more than a fraction of an exorbitant deficit. Removing this program removes opportunity to build life long connections with the University, the city, and the state. Removing this program removes opportunity to build understanding of experiences other than one's own. Removing this program removes opportunity for boys to become driven, educated, successful, understanding, well-rounded men.