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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

Editorial

Most students at Middlebury are athletes. Just over one in four students participate in varsity sports, and the percentage increases dramatically if we include JV, club and intramurals. In fact, if you don’t participate in an organized sport of some kind, you are in the minority on campus. Even then, chances are good that you run, swim, bike or weight train in your spare time. Our campus is one where athletics, and physical fitness in general, are highly valued and promoted, and this is reflected in the recent success of our many sports programs.

The past two decades were truly a renaissance for Middlebury athletics from a national perspective. The men’s hockey program has accumulated eight titles in the past 15 years. Women’s and men’s lacrosse are now staples among D-III powerhouses. Women’s hockey and field hockey are always feared forces in conference and championship play. Women’s cross-country has become a national champion caliber program. Every year Middlebury ranks among the upper echelon of teams in the Director’s Cup, providing official recognition for our school’s superior athletic teams.

Other teams have recently emerged as NESCAC and national forces as well. Men’s tennis, men’s soccer, men’s basketball and men’s rugby have all enjoyed success on the national level in recent years, and the squash program has gained national attention.

The success of Middlebury sports this fall has only reinforced the school’s status as an athletic hegemon. Field hockey and volleyball routed opponents all season and showed depth in their respective NCAA tournament runs. Donnie McKillop ’11 shattered Middlebury’s passing records behind a solid squad. Women’s soccer had the most exciting comeback of the year against Amherst and men’s soccer is still en route to further NCAA tournament success at Bowdoin this Saturday. Women’s cross-country continued its tradition of excellence, and this year the men’s team followed suit — both teams are headed to the NCAA finals. Men’s golf captured the NESCAC title after an exciting tournament. The success of Middlebury athletics is impossible to overlook, especially after a season like this fall, but it is often passed over in a list of the College’s achievements.

Sports provide a means through which Middlebury students celebrate their identity as students of the College. Amidst a raging crowd in Pepin or packed stands on the fields, the student body becomes united for a common cause: the success of our friends and peers in their (and our) athletic pursuits.

While Middlebury boasts of its commitment to languages and environmental studies, athletics are relegated to a separate sphere. This is completely understandable — Middlebury College is an academic institution first and foremost. But the sheer success and participation rate of the school’s athletic programs cannot be ignored. Greater acknowledgment of Middlebury’s athletics may involve increased funding for sports programs or the construction of new facilities, or even just a more vocal affirmation of our superb athletics in the College’s mission statement. Whether this recognition is financial or ideological, we feel that Panther pride should (and does) extend beyond the classroom and the College’s academic endeavors to the success of our student athletes.


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