Freshman runner Taylor Hoyt practicing by himself on the track. Without a D-III country team, Hoyt must be self-motivated. Photo by Devika Agarwal.
Freshman runner Taylor Hoyt practicing by himself on the track. Without a D-III country team, Hoyt must be self-motivated. Photo by Devika Agarwal.

Tyler Hoyt is not an National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) D-III athlete. He does not wear a UC Santa Cruz uniform. He will not be representing the Banana Slugs on this year’s D-III men’s cross country All-American team.

And yet, the first-year history major trains as though he were competing against the region’s best runners.

“As a freshman, if he had the opportunity, presumably he would have been one of the faster guys in the West region for Division III,” said Adam Booth, women’s cross country coach, who has gone out of his way to set up a workout program for Hoyt.

Unfortunately for Hoyt, UCSC does not have a men’s D-III cross country team. He had offers to run in D-I at St. Mary’s, but decided to attend UCSC instead.

Hoyt’s high school coach David Jackson and Booth ran together at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the late 1990s. Jackson alerted Booth that Hoyt would be coming to UCSC and told him he’d really appreciate it if Booth worked with him.

“At first, to be honest, I kind of blew [Hoyt] off,” Booth said. “But he kept on me, he tracked me down again and again. If I see an athlete put that much work and effort into finding me and doing the training, it’s pretty easy to give it back to him.”

Booth started working with Hoyt in January. Each week, the two meet up to plan a workout, which Hoyt completes himself, checking back afterwards with ideas of what to work on next. Since January, Hoyt has cut 15 seconds off of his 5,000 meter time.

“He does all the things you would do if you were on an NCAA team, and he does it alone,” Booth said. “He is one of the runners that coaches dream of. His work ethic is unbelievable.”

“Running alone is very quiet, especially in the evening or early in the morning,” Hoyt said. “It’s pretty much in silence.”

Hoyt explained that having a person to run with helps push him, but that he finds other ways to motivate himself. Working with Booth, who was one of the reasons why Hoyt chose UCSC over St. Mary’s, has definitely made staying focused easier.

“A UC education is hard to argue with, and athletically it’s an awesome place to run,” Hoyt said. “And one of the things my high school coach told me, he said ‘if they are going to have a team, Adam is going to be the guy, and he’s a great coach, you know he’ll take care of you.’”

The two have bonded, and both say they enjoy working with each other. But Hoyt still admits that he misses the experience of running for a school team.

“I can go home and sleep in my bed at my parents’ house. I can go home and eat my mom’s food, drive my car, and do whatever, but I still don’t have a team,” he said. “Coming up here for school, the only thing I miss is my high school running team.”

But there is hope yet that Hoyt will get his team.

Linda Spradley, director of athletics at UCSC, said that the university applied and was granted a one-year waiver from the NCAA. The waiver allows UCSC to continue competing without six male sports teams, the minimum for a D-III school, but by the 2011-2012 school years, another male team will need to be added.

“We sent in a waiver, because financially, as a school, we can’t do it,” she said. “We can’t even do what we’re doing now.”

Spradley was clear in saying that the athletic department has made no decision on which sport will be added. She said that once a decision had been made, an announcement would be posted on the department’s website.

Yet, of all the sports that could be added, men’s cross country seems like the most viable option according to Booth.

“It doesn’t take a lot of facility use, it doesn’t take a lot of infrastructure within a school, and dollars-wise, it’s the cheapest of any NCAA sport,” Booth said.

On top of that, men’s and women’s cross country share a season, and Booth has already offered to coach both teams. The only cost of the team would come from buying uniforms and renting a second van to transport the runners to events.

Even the extra cost of attending tournaments would be miniscule. Booth said that, while some coaches allow him to pay only half the cost to attend an event, at other events he still has to pay the regular entry fee — despite the fact that UCSC only has a women’s team.

“Basically, I’m already paying for a men’s cross country team,” he said.

Every summer, Booth receives 15 to 20 e-mails from prospective students, asking about the possibility of joining the non-existent men’s cross country team. As of now, there are no men’s cross country teams in California public schools. Clearly, recruiting would not be an issue.

Hoyt believes there are plenty of students who would love to run for UCSC. And both he and Booth agree that if there was a men’s cross country team, it’d be a force in the region.

“We’re here,” Hoyt said. “And when there is a team, we’re ready to compete.”