BELTON, Texas- In three of the last four years, the UMHB athletics department has added a new sport to its program, starting with cross country in 2018, acrobatics and tumbling the following year, and beach volleyball, which is set to debut this spring.
With a new Vice President for Athletics in Dr. Mickey Kerr, a UMHB alum himself, there is question as to if that trend with continue in the coming years. Kerr seems to think so.
“I think right now we just want to make sure that these new programs (cross country, acro & tumbling) are off to a great start, which they are,” Kerr told True To The Cru. “We’ve got beach volleyball coming along as well. I think in the back of your mind, if you’re stagnant, and not growing, you’re going backwards. So I think we’re always going to look for advantages to see what opportunities are out there and advantageous for the university itself, as well as for potential student-athletes.”
Some of those “opportunities” may include sports like lacrosse or track and field, both of which have had discussion around the ASC.
Track and field is one of the more notable sports possibly on the horizon, especially when you consider that UMHB, a flagship institution of the ASC who has won the third-most total conference championships in the conference, is currently one of only two ASC schools that does not field a track and field program (Sul Ross State is the other).
Kerr partially attributes the struggle in getting a program started to the lack of facilities available. There is no track around the football field, like there is at many of the other schools in the ASC. There is no track anywhere on campus, in fact.
“It would still need a facility,” Kerr said of track and field. “I know the university has probably thought about that in the past and you never want to say no to any opportunity. That might be a possibility, lacrosse might be a possibility.”
The only additional option for facilities is to go off campus to a local high school, as current cross country head coach Alex Aldaco did when he was at Concordia. East Texas Baptist’s program was also practicing at Marshall High School as of a couple years ago.
“We practiced at St. Stephen’s High School [when I was at Concordia], which was about 20 minutes from campus,” Aldaco said. “The only time we could get the facility was at night because they used the facility during school time. So we’d practice from 6-9 pm. And in January and February, it gets cold at night.”
Building the program itself adds in the challenge of getting a sport, any sport, up and running. If track and field was added, Aldaco, likely to serve as the head coach, would have a slight head start with the distance runners he recruits for the cross-country program. However, he would also be tasked with finding sprinters, middle-distance runners, jumpers and throwers. There is no lack of talent throughout the state of Texas, and UMHB’s notoriety grows each year. But regardless of the pool to pull from, it is not easy to recruit and build a brand-new team. And Aldaco speaks from experience, having done it before.
“[Starting a cross country program then track and field program] is what I did at Concordia,” Aldaco said. “I think I did cross country for the first eight years before they actually added track and field. Both cross country programs got more competitive when we added track and field.
“UMHB is good in all aspects. They’re good in football, volleyball, whatever sport you can think of. So when they eventually do add track, I don’t see any reason on why we couldn’t compete at the conference and national level for sure.”
One intriguing part of having a track and field program is the possibility of two-sport athletes that the Cru might bring in. Already, a notable number of current Cru athletes were standouts on their high school track and field teams, meaning if UMHB could take advantage of that, the Cru would likely have a very athletic, quick, competitive team in its early years.
Tyler Stone was set to come to UMHB for football and basketball before he flipped his commitment in May and took an offer to jump for Div. I Tarleton State. Incoming freshman quarterback Colby Bailey won the boys long jump at the UIL 2A District 12 meet and ran the anchor leg on the 4×100-meter relay that won at the area meet. UMHB defensive back Jackson Sennie’s 23.94 200-meter time during his senior year of high school would’ve put him in the top 20 in the event at this spring’s ASC Championships. Women’s basketball’s Kaitlyn Kollmorgen ran a 26.70 in the 200-meters as a high school junior, and that time alone would’ve qualified her for the final at the ASC championships. Her older sister Taylor, who played for the Cru last year as a graduate transfer, was a standout high jumper in high school, and also competed in four meets for the Houston Baptist track and field team as a freshman, placing in the top four in the high jump at all of them. In fact, her college personal best of 1.65m would have won her the 2021 ASC women’s high jump title. Incoming transfer Jamaal Hamilton, who played at Houston, ran the 100-meters in 11.55 seconds while at Duncanville High School, quick enough to qualify for the 100-meter dash final at the ASC Championships. And don’t forget Sam Moore, the basketball star who is now at Angelo State and finished fourth in the 2A state high jump final as a sophomore, junior and senior. Aaron Sims, now training for a pro career, ran for Texas A&M after running a 10.65-second 100-meter dash, which would have won the 2021 ASC title by .16 of a second.
Would all these athletes take on the challenge of two sports at the college level? It is questionable. Would coaches allow it? That’s unclear as well. But the point is made. UMHB has, year-in and year-out, some of the ASC’s most skilled athletes. To watch them show it, not just on the court or the field, but on the track would surely be something incredible.
As Kerr mentioned, and as Aldaco also noted, there have been no official talks at this time of adding track and field at UMHB. Aldaco is currently working to elevate the cross country team he started in 2018 to premier ASC status.
“No there haven’t been any official talks, any hints [about adding track and field],” Aldaco said. “I’m not going to pursue a track program right now, but if they want to do it, we’ll figure it out. Right now, my goal is to get cross country, on both the men’s and women’s sides, to the level where we’re getting top three at conference every year.”