You’ve seen them running through campus by the half-dozen, usually staying tight together.
You’ve seen them wearing their team gear to class, to lunch or other athletic events.
And Saturday — if you were there — you saw the Elon University women’s track and field team win its second Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Track & Field Championship in two tries, defending its title at home.
If there was any doubt before, there’s no denying what they’ve believed the entire time: The best program at Elon currently is the women’s track and field team.
“We really have set a standard,” said senior Samantha Brown. “I want the younger girls to know it. I want the incoming girls to know it. And I want people who are looking at the school to know that this team is a winning, championship team.”
After years of struggling to place high in the Southern Conference, Elon has found a home in the CAA. While the school isn't being considered a regionally-strong track and field program yet, it also doesn't seem far away. And senior Jen Esposito will be happy to remind you of the team’s accomplishments.
“It seems like, sometimes, we’re almost the forgotten team,” Esposito said. “But we’ve won both CAA championships [for Elon].”
And they’ve done it with one of the conference’s smallest competitive rosters, which stands out to senior Sydney Griffin.
“We don’t have the numbers — teams like [James Madison University], they’re going to have people in these finals no matter what,” Griffin said. “So for us, especially in the 400m hurdles and the 400m [race], we knew if we got a certain amount of people in there, we’d be able to win this. I think it worked out perfectly.”
The move to the CAA has worked out magnificently for track and field, as the program has turned a corner with the talent of its athletes. Brown has noticed the change that’s occurred.
“Our program has grown so much since I’ve been here — our freshmen that we have now are better than our seniors that are leaving,” Brown said. “That’s a testament to Elon in general. Our program is just getting started, and that’s what this says: ‘We’re here, and we’re ready to go.’”
Elon was able to host the CAA championships thanks to some major facility upgrades that took less than two years. Head coach Mark Elliston says the credit has to start with the administration, both university-wide and within athletics.
“They were willing to see something that we were growing and getting better, and they managed to go ahead and help us take some things over the top — the facility and some things we’ve been supported with,” Elliston said. “And this is what happens. We’ve taken those resources and made the very best of them. It’s just exciting to know we could do this.”
Elon hosted the Phoenix Invitational last year — its first home meet in nearly 10 years. After the success of the home meet, the conference awarded the school its championship, which went swimmingly. Esposito noticed the fans that showed, saying it was “nice to have the school come out and support.”
Elon is surely to be in the rotation for hosting the conference championship event every few years.
But so far, the trophy isn't going anywhere else. Elliston loves what the leaving senior class has been able to do.
"They’re leaving a legacy — a tradition,” Elliston said. “And now the freshmen don’t want to be on their watch when we don’t win. Hopefully, this will help attract the athletes out there looking for a wonderful university and a pretty good track program.”
And for Brown and Griffin, the title puts the ultimate cap on their Elon careers.
“I was saying to Sydney once we finished the 4x400, ‘Think of how few seniors get to finish a championship on their home track and with a trophy,’” Brown said. “There’s not many people that can say that’s how their career ended, so that’s really special.”