The men’s cross country team is well into a very competitive fall season, but they have taken the time to work on two community engagement projects between races and practices.
Community Trail Clearing
At the beginning of their pre-season training, the team gathered on Aug. 31 to help clear the Emily Dickinson trail that runs between the bike path and Groff Park and the Robert Frost Trail at the end of the bike path. Armed with an array of landscaping tools, the team took the time between their morning and afternoon workouts to clear the community’s running trail of overgrowth and fallen trees.
Eli Howe ’13, who serves as the president of Amherst’s Outing Club and spent the summer working on trails and building shelters in the Mt. Toby area, knew that the college’s Department of Conservation didn’t have the capacity to complete the work on the trails on their own. He contacted the department and offered his team’s services, and the department gladly accepted the offer.
Senior captain Dillon Buckley ’13 also helped lead the charge to clear the trails. “We use those trails a lot, but they’re open to the public so they get a pretty wide usage. We were happy to help, it was a lot of fun, and it was great team bonding.
Men’s cross country coach Erik (Ned) Nedeau seconded, “We wanted to recognize the efforts that the town of Amherst and the Department of Conservation make to maintain such incredible natural resources for everyone. This was a great way for the team to give back to the community.”
Survival Center Furniture Sale
A few weeks later, the team volunteered at the Amherst Survival Center’s annual furniture sale. The Survival Center is a regional resource that strives to provide food, health, clothing and community to those who need it through volunteer efforts.
Community members donated gently-used furniture to the Center, who in turn resold the items to raise money in their “Trash to Treasures” furniture sale.
The men’s cross country team assembled on Sept. 6 and 7 and volunteered as salesmen and furniture movers for the two-day event.
“I’ll be honest, things get pretty crazy and competitive,” Buckley joked. “That is, in the spirit of volunteerism, the boys still like to see who can raise the most money on their shifts. Although, with all the proceeds going to the Survival Center, teammates only compete against each other for bragging rights.”
“We’ve been involved with the Survival Center for a number of years,” Coach Nedeau explained. “It’s been great for the Survival Center to have the help, but just as importantly, I feel strongly that it is a great way to help my guys see the bigger picture, grow and mature, and get to know one another.”
While most members of the team are three-season athletes — cross country, indoor track and outdoor track — the team prioritizes community engagement even when things are busy. Next up: every Interterm, the team volunteers at the Survival Center between practices.
“Ned has always emphasized community engagement,” Buckley reflects. “He always tells us that we make a name for ourselves in how we run and how we serve others. It’s a given. We expect it of ourselves and each other.”