Club Running Team Able to Compete

Monmouth University’s Club Running Team has more athletes than ever before, training to compete in upcoming meets across New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Although the club team has been present on-and-off for ten years and through the COVID-19 pandemic, this fall season’s involvement and competition are reaching new heights.

Leading the club with years of experience, Coach Joe Compagni served as the Monmouth University Division I Track and Field Coach from 1995-2019. Compagni is now the head coach and advisor of the Monmouth University Running Club, and has worked to further establish it since 2019.
Speaking on the Division I team, Compagni said, “We always had a limit on the size of our squad, so I always felt bad if somebody had an interest in track or cross country and they didn’t really fit on our team for whatever reason.”

“The club team, for the last five years,” he continued, “has been a great outlet for that because it gives people the chance to come out. Some people are just there to get a little fitter, some people want to compete in cross country, some people want to compete in track, and they can do any of those things.”
The pandemic presented a challenge to the club, which was starting to gain traction at the time. Like many organizations, the environment became mainly virtual. Practices were held in-person whenever possible, adhering to the mask mandate and limiting running groups to five people.

“It was good in some ways. It gave some people an outlet during that time, but it was a really challenging time to do anything,” Compagni said. “It helped some people get through that year.” The coaches also sent workouts to the team over the lockdown, encouraging the athletes to utilize at-home materials like water bottles for strength work.

Recovering from the pandemic, the team has been building back its numbers to almost 70 athletes who attend depending on individual schedules. Coach and Operations Coordinator, Linda Crawford, joined the Monmouth Running Club five years ago when a former student recommended her to the program. She said that the Involvement Fair this September was a great event for the club, gaining interest in the team and the events it offers.

Winter Track meets are a highlight for the organization, as Monmouth hosts a variety of indoor meets that many colleges attend. “The club gets to host the showcase meets, so it’s pretty nice that you can do the event that you want to do, then get to sit at the table, hand out bibs, and help everybody else,” Crawford said.

These indoor meets also serve as fundraisers for the club, allowing athletes to compete and travel year-round for no personal expense. “I tell people those indoor meets are FUNdraisers, like F-U-N, because they’re just great opportunities for our team to compete,” Compagni said. “They’re great community events, but they’re also fundraisers for us too.”

Off campus, the Shore Athletic Club hosts a six-week cross country series at various Monmouth County parks. There are also invitationals open to runners across the Tri-state area, including larger meets at Lehigh University. Last season many athletes broke club records, and Coach Compagni hopes to continue this tradition. “I want us to have the biggest group we’ve ever had. I want us to compete more than we ever have. We’ve kept track of our club records and they’re fairly modest right now, so I want to see us establish a whole new set of club records.”

Club President, senior Thomas Hintelmann, said that he has seen tremendous growth in the team during his four years of involvement. “My hopes are that everyone has a healthy season, has fun, and really gets something out of the club,” Hintelmann said. “It has grown a lot in numbers and experiences we can offer.”

Another athlete, Catrina Kipnis, joined the team this year as a junior with a goal in mind. “Really, my goal was to be a part of something to meet new people and to be held accountable for exercising,” Kipnis said.
Freshman Lynda Levy added, “I’m happy we have our team, running is a lot easier when there’s people there with you.”

Looking to this coming season, Coach Compagni and Coach Crawford expressed that they are looking forward to seeing what the team can accomplish this year. There are more athletes to compete and build the club as the season continues. “The biggest thing is that I think some people don’t want to come out because they think that they need to be super experienced or super talented, but we really will work with anybody from whatever level they’re at,” Compagni said.

Three runners competed in the first cross-country meet of the season on Saturday, Sept. 30 at Big Brook Park in Marlboro, New Jersey. This was the first of the Shore Athletic Club’s Adult Cross Country Series, which continues through November 11.