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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

The Hole Of Dreams


Photo by Davin Surin

Have you ever walked on UMass Boston’s now-abandoned track? If so, you probably noticed a few things that were out of the ordinary…the patches of grass growing up through the surface, the metal bleachers set up on the outside lanes, and the realistic-looking coyote decoys set up on the soccer field. Perhaps the most unusual feature on the ancient track is the three-foot-deep pit dug into the first turn, with a tall, wooden bar guarding its entrance. Sure, it’s a head-turner, but you might not know that back in its glory days, that humble hole played a huge role in Beacons track-and-field history.

“How?” you may ask. That hole was dug for steeplechase, among the most challenging and historic events in track-and-field. The race is usually 3,000 meters, or seven-and-a-half times around the track.  Each lap involves a terrifying leap over a 36-inch barrier, into a pool of water. In its past life, the hole you see was that pool, but it’s been dormant for more than a decade.

Steeplechase is still a popular track event.  It originated in Britain, where men would race each other either on foot or on horseback from one town’s steeple to another town’s. The sport evolved to be run on a track instead of through the woods, and the hole is a result of that transition. People who have participated in steeplechase have called it a “miserable chaff fest,” but it does seem to be a fun alternative to the monotony of the average long distance track race.

Now that steeplechase is no longer a part the Beacons’ program, what were the final stats? The men’s school record was set by Jonah Backstrom on May 17, 1997 with a time of 9:36.80. The women’s record is 10:06.94, set by Jackie Finnin in 1998 (the women’s race is 2,000 meters long, as oppose to 3,000 for the men).

The hole is the only relic left at UMass Boston of what was once a highly competitive Beacon sport. So next time you walk by and think “What IS that?” just remember, people have tripped over that barrier and fallen flat on their faces in an effort to secure that place in Beacon history. That hole has made dreams come true and has broken some hearts. It has broken some noses and cracked some ribs. It is a true Beacon fixture, and don’t forget that.