Inside CAS

College of Arts and Sciences


Nostalgic Running Grounds

Friday, May 13, 2016


Written by Ashlan Poniatowski '16; Photo by Jennifer Chin

Not only was this year’s College of Arts and Sciences Homecoming 5k a step towards a new tradition, but it was also a nostalgic event for several of the participants. As Dr. Julian Keith lead the runners on a bike, his old UNCW cross country teammate, Dr. Thomas Lankford, lagged not far behind, placing second overall. A few runners back, finishing in seventh place overall, was Dr. Richard Olsen, who was also a former UNCW cross country runner and Lankford’s teammate. All three UNCW cross country alumni are currently faculty members.

Keith is the Department of Psychology chair and professor. Lankford is an associate professor in the Department of Biology and Marine Biology. Olsen is an associate professor and chairperson of the Department of Communication Studies. Their cross country coach, Dr. Bill Atwill, is an associate professor and associate director of honors in the Department of English.

When asked why they participated in this year’s College of Arts and Sciences Homecoming 5k, their answers all aligned. Each said they wanted to participate for the nostalgia and for the great cause of raising money for the students in the UNCW College of Arts and Sciences. They also said running was a way to acknowledge their coach and UNCW for the opportunities they’ve been given first as students, and now as employees. Olsen also wanted to participate in order to cross a post-grad 5k run off of his bucket list. Keith states, “I wanted to lead the runners on a bike in order to talk a little bit of smack to my old cross country teammate, Lankford, figuring he would be in first place. There is no way he would be able to beat me in this race, since I was on a bike.”

All three UNCW alumni participants mentioned the race was nostalgic for them. They said running/biking around the UNCW campus reminded them of cross country practices and races. “Although the campus has changed over the years, some parts have stayed the same, and these are the parts that bring back the most memories,” says Olsen. With memories of running around campus during their UNCW cross country days also comes memories of their teammates, joking around in the van on the way to races, and of their coach, Atwill, pushing them to be smart, put academics first, and be model citizens.

Atwill describes Keith, Lankford, and Olsen as “delightful intellects who approached their running with a mixture of serious training and competitive cooperation.” Atwill cherishes the memories he made as the UNCW cross country coach and says, “It’s funny, but after all these years, the competitive results seem far less meaningful than the social interaction with all the cross country runners.”

Keith said the number one thing he misses about his cross country days is the team itself and he wishes he was young enough to compete again. He says, “I would love to get the team together again and be able to run with them. I would also love to see our old team compete against the current UNCW cross country team, I think we could beat them.”

Although these three UNCW cross country alums cannot run like they used to, they are all still very active in other activities including, occasional runs, biking, basketball, and cross training. Their inspiration then was that it was a lot of fun to be in great shape. They loved the feeling of exerting themselves and being able to prolong that energy so effortlessly. Their inspiration today is primarily the same. They all want to stay in great shape and feel that exertion of energy. This year’s CAS Homecoming 5k was a perfect sunny day for these alumni to reminisce their glory days.