Education

KSU Trumbull to Field First Athletics Program in 25 Years

CHAMPION TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Students at Kent State University at Trumbull will hit the ground running this fall semester as the branch campus plans to restart its athletics program with a women’s and men’s cross-country team.

“We’re really looking forward to what this will do for our overall student development as we help them grow to their full potential,” said Lance Grahn, dean of KSU’s Trumbull Campus. “We’re very excited about this.”

Grahn said the team would initially be a student club sport and hopefully compete in an intercollegiate conference by the fall of 2019. The campus is also looking to expand the sports program next year, possibly by adding a bowling or archery squad.

The last year KSU Trumbull fielded an athletics program was in 1992. Then, the campus hosted a golf, volleyball, and basketball program.

Cross-country made sense because the sport is much more cost-efficient than others such as basketball or baseball, Grahn said. And, there are plenty of opportunities to compete with other colleges, even though the team is considered a student organization.

“We’ve already been invited to compete even as a student club this year,” he said.

Bill Hess, the volunteer coach for the new KSU Trumbull team and head track and cross-country coach at Niles McKinley High School, said he’s received commitments from Youngstown State University and Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., to compete in cross-country meets. He has also reached out to other nearby colleges such as Hiram.

“I can’t say enough about the opportunity,” Hess said. He noted that there are student athletes he’s talked with at various high schools who are looking to attend KSU Trumbull and are interested in joining the team. “I don’t have to go far to recruit in this area. It’s unbelievable.” Hess said he hopes to have about 10 students running for the team this year.

Briana Ellwood, a sophomore at KSU Trumbull and the first member of the cross-country team, said she’s excited about competing in the fall. Hess coached her when she attended Niles Middle School. “It makes it more exciting to go to school here,” she noted.

Grahn said that he hopes to build the new athletics program along the same lines as KSU’s Tuscarawas campus, which has developed an intercollegiate sports program that competes in the United States Collegiate Athletics Association.

In Fall 2016, Tuscarawas started fielding teams in women’s volleyball, men’s golf, and men and women’s cross-country, basketball and bowling. This spring, the campus launched baseball, softball, and men and women’s track and field. Wrestling and women’s soccer are scheduled to start in fall semester 2017.

“They’ve given us a model to build from,” he said.

An athletics program is an important component in teaching students about leadership, Grahn added. “It’s also a way in which we can give them a fuller college experience,” he noted.

Moreover, the addition of a sports program would help the branch campus boost enrollment, just as it has done in Tuscarawas, Grahn said. “Enrollments are down all across northeastern Ohio,” he said. The Tuscarawas campus, he noted, has bucked this trend due in part to its athletics program.

KSU Trumbull’s enrollment stands at about 2,400, and is expected to remain unchanged by the fall of 2017, Grahn said.

“When we celebrate in 2020 the 50th anniversary of the Champion campus, I would love to have a revived intercollegiate athletics program,” Grahn said.

Pictured: Michelle Adkins, Lance Grahn, Bill Hess and Briana Ellwood.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.