St. Thomas University has decided to discontinue its track and field team’s throwing program for the upcoming year.
Athletics director Mike Eagles said the decision was made following a discussion with coach Mark Sheehan about difficulties managing the combined STU and University of New Brunswick training teams.
In an email to affected students on May 24, Eagles said Sheehan originally “graciously agreed to coach an athlete or two, starting out, and brought them into his UNB group.”
However, Eagles said the blended teams have grown to be too much for Sheehan to take on.
“Mark and I have recently had a conversation and this is no longer an option,” Eagles wrote.
“I totally respect his decision as everyone’s safety and his coaching to the UNB throwers have to be his priority.”
St. Thomas’ athletics department did not provide any further comment on Wednesday.
Anisha Romany, a thrower who just finished her second year at STU, said she was devastated when she read the email.
“I’m at a loss, really,” Romany said.
“I mean I understand why for the most part, but it’s still very disappointing … For many athletes I know, losing your sport is a lot like losing part of your identity.”
Jonathan Gionet is a former STU student who took the throwing game far with his shot put skills, winning a gold medal in 2015 and a silver in 2016 at the annual Atlantic University Sport Championships.
Gionet, who now competes with Fredericton’s track and field team, said he loved competing at STU. While he said it’s unfortunate the program has been cut, he believes the good intentions are there.
“There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes that the athletics department has to deal with … I’m sure this wasn’t an easy decision for them,” Gionet said.
Another student, Becca Baker, said she only had a short-lived stint on the team but the experience still left a mark on her.
“I met and trained with some amazing athletes while I was a part of the team,” she said, later adding the team appreciated all the work Sheehan put in.
Romany said she and her fellow throwers worked “exceptionally hard” and improved a lot this past year. One part she will miss most, she said, is the rivalry between teammates and the friends she’s made elsewhere thanks to STU’s throwing program.
“Throwing is special in that aspect. Your competitors push you to best yourself,” Romany said.
“It’s just you in the circle. Having some great role models in my competitors and also my teammates really pushed me to become a better thrower and overall athlete.”
Still, even without the program, Romany said she still plans to further her athletic career and presence at the university.
“I plan on using the rest of the summer break to evaluate what I’ve developed from the throwing program and hopefully apply what I’ve learned to other aspects of my life.”