The lost sports of Mount Royal
by Rachel Ott
The banners are still displayed proudly in the pool and around the running track at Mount Royal, reminding us of our once-great swim and cross-country teams. Detailing consecutive championships over many years, the banners speak volumes of the talent and perseverance exhibited by the university’s student athletes. What these banners don’t speak of is why, despite the teams’ obvious successes, these sports are no longer offered.
As a student and employee of MRU, I thought I could easily uncover this story. It quickly became apparent that few of the original staff members who could speak of these disappearances remain employed here, and those who are still here are swamped with organizing the many varsity practices, programs, and recent playoffs for the department. I did discover these teams were discontinued for the 2004-05 season, the year before the current manager of athletics, Karla Karch, took her position.
The banners hanging in the recreation centre mark a string of wins for the Cougars in swimming and cross-country. From them, one thing is made abundantly clear: when it came to the pool and track, Mount Royal left other teams floundering. Out of the six possible categories, Cougar Athletics swam away with only one defeat.
Although Karch was not with Mount Royal during those successes, the legacy of the teams lives on.
“The team was very strong and did extremely well in the ACAC from what I’ve heard,” Karch said of the lost swim team. “Cougar Athletics has established themselves as a leader within the ACAC, which is proven by the history that has been established over time.”
It’s undeniable that these teams placed Mount Royal at the top of the charts. So what happened?
The answer is what one would expect. As suspected, funding issues contributed to the demise of these extremely successful teams. However, Karch was able to put the cut into perspective.
“By concentrating its fiscal and human resources on 10 varsity teams instead of 12, Cougar Athletics would be able to offer more exceptional opportunities to its student athletes and further secure its place as Canada’s leading collegiate athletics programs.”
Although these once triumphant teams no longer add to Mount Royal’s growing athletic achievements, their banners serve as testaments to their time here.
Perhaps it is not too ambitious to hope for a revival. With students now able to study for four-year degrees, and Mount Royal’s promotion to university status, there will undoubtedly be an increased interest in offering these sports again as well as additional funding to support the case for renewal. Only time will tell what’s in store for Cougar Athletics, but in the meantime, Mount Royal continues to be a top contender on the athletic platform by pushing the limits of success beyond the competition’s reach.
We should not forget those who forged the path.