Dear Board of Regents,
My name is Dawson LaRance and I am a fourth-year track and field athlete at the University of Minnesota. My time at Minnesota has brought me countless blessings: I have received a great education; medaled at the Big Ten Track and Field Championships; I am an NCAA national qualifier' I am in the UMN track and field record books; I started an LGBTQAI+ advocacy and support group within our athletic department; and, above all, I have made some amazing friendships that will last me forever.
These experiences were only possible because I was a part of this incredible program.
My teammates and I have given a great deal to the University of Minnesota athletic department. Gopher men's track and field has countless athletic and academic achievements. Also, of great importance, the Gopher track and field program is a leader for diversity and inclusion at the University of Minnesota. I do not think the full community impact was considered prior to the recommendation to cut the men's track and field program. Track and field prides itself on bringing diverse communities together. Track and field, unlike many other sports, offers every person of any background wishing to compete in a sport the opportunity to do so. There is not a sport more diverse in terms of race, gender, socio-economic status, etc. Cutting men's track and field would be a huge loss for the athletic department and the entire University of Minnesota.
The Minnesota men's track and field program has been racially and socio-economically diverse for many years. I have witnessed and participated in the giant steps the program has made in terms of inclusion and acceptance of athletes of the LGBTQ+ community. I have tremendous pride in my team for this growth and diversity. I know of other programs across the country, as well as other sports at the U, that are not as openly welcoming or embracing of LGBTQ+ athletes. Two years ago, an openly bi-sexual track thrower and I started an LGBTQAI+ advocacy and support group within our athletic department. Our group has created awareness and visibility within our athletic department as well as educated the staff within the department on LGBTQAI+ issues and needs. This group, started by two openly queer track and field athletes, has created a welcoming community within UMN athletics that accepts everyone. The track and field program leads in the promotion of inclusivity. A decision to cut men's track and field would be a huge disservice to the athletic department and to the entire University of Minnesota.
As a queer cross-country and track and field athlete, I know what it feels like to experience adversity in many different forms. This adversity has shaped me to be the person that I am today, and I would not change my experiences in my life. I worked my ass off for many years to become a great runner in order to:
1.) be good at something that generates respect and ends the hardship of bullying and social exclusion;
2.) move to a place where I could experience queer life/culture as well as pursue my athletic and academic dreams; and
3.) compete and actively represent the University of Minnesota in the best way possible as this track program gave me an amazing opportunity to fulfill my dreams.
Coming to Minnesota I was committed to becoming the best runner possible, but I also made my decision because I wanted to grow as an openly queer student-athlete as there are many facets to me besides being a runner. Running for Minnesota was the best decision I had ever made because, for once in my life, I felt as though I could live a life in which I was my complete, authentic self and I could grow as the person I wanted to become. There are so many kids out there that are in the same or similar positions. Cutting this program is cutting a program that took a chance on me and gave me the opportunity to grow into a person that I am proud to be today. This decision denies so many kids the opportunity to fulfill similar dreams and aspirations.I have done my best to compete the best I can as well as create a welcoming community within athletics that accepts everyone. I am disappointed that the athletic department could not figure out a way to give the same support and sacrifice that I and teammates have given to them.
The Gopher men's track and field program brings success, diversity, inclusion, and pride to Gopher Athletics. Men's track and field represents and promotes diversity. The proposal to cut the Gopher men's track and field program must be denied. If any board members have questions or desire a discussion about this matter, I would be more than happy to talk further. My number is 406-861-5380.