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Colorado University Buffalos have had one of the most successful programs in the NCAA while Mark Wetmore has been at the helm. The team has won many NCAA titles in cross-country and in indoor and outdoor track. Wetmore has been at the helm of the program for 27 of the 29 years that he has coached the Buffalos.

It seems that it was bound to happen, that an athlete who was let go would come back with allegations against the coaching staff. Retribution, justified or otherwise, seems to be a growing trend. On the one hand, having the ability and freedom to speak up is important, on the other, the freedom to speak carries responsibility. Does the athlete have a case?

Former Buffalo (2017-2019) Kate Intile claims that body composition analysis, training methods, and overall culture were toxic while she was with the program. Intile has three anonymous counterparts who support her claims, however, several athletes have come out on their own to refute the allegations. They have provided the information in the Runner’s World publication titled, University of Colorado Conducts Investigation Into Running Program, by author Cindy Kuzma, published on Nov. 18, 2022, as well as posting anonymously at Let’s Run.

On the heels of the allegations, the University of Colorado is conducting what it calls an “independent, comprehensive fact-finding inquiry” into practices at its cross-country program.

Although it is too early to assume if Intile — who was cut from the program — is justified, many athletes and fans have come back on the publication’s timing of the article. Runner’s World published the day before the NCAA championships, in which the Buffalos are very much in the running.

Meanwhile, the athletes who refute the allegations point out that to be competitive or the best, expectations and commitments are high — this is not for everyone. One particular poster at Let’s Run with the pseudonym “current buff runner,” wrote the following:

“Hi!

I wanted to share insight as a current athlete on the team because I feel like a lot of the allegations have been exaggerated in the media surrounding this investigation. I do acknowledge the experiences that the athletes coming out about this have shared, and I don’t aim to belittle their perspectives in any way.

However, in the time I’ve been on the team so far, and in discussing this topic with teammates, we feel that the issue has been portrayed in an extreme light. I have personally never felt pressured to alter my body composition, even if it has at times been out of the supposed “elite” range.

Our dietitian is incredibly knowledgeable in her work and has our best interests at the forefront. If we willingly choose to do a body comp, she will give us the facts, and that information can be used in whatever which way by the athlete. As someone who previously had an eating disorder that destroyed the vast majority of my high school running career, I know that one’s mind, pressured by environment, societal perceptions, and personality, can twist that information in a negative manner. Yet, our dietitian and the coaches realize that a fueled, healthy athlete is going to outperform an underfueled athlete any day, even if the underfueled athlete has a slightly better body comp. Resources are provided if athletes are struggling, and the coaches are nothing but supportive for such situations.

Our program is not, and never will be all rainbows and unicorns. Our goals are not to simply celebrate competing, but to win championships. Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t take time to enjoy the process and the little moments having fun with teammates. However, sometimes the environment can be intense and that environment is not for everyone. If you choose to come here, you choose to dedicate yourself to the team for 4-6 years. That can feel like a lot. Sometimes it might even feel “toxic” if you look at it with the wrong mindset. But we are all here because we love this sport, we love pushing our limits, we love our teammates, and we love competing at a high level. We make a commitment, we are given the best possible resources, and we are expected to uphold it to the best of our abilities.

I’m all for the push for better mental health resources for collegiate athletes, but like one anonymous athlete mentioned in the article, I think some aspects of this situation have made it more of a “witch-hunt” than actually pushing for meaningful change.”

Another anonymous poster claiming to be a current Buffalo teammate named “skobuffs23” wrote the following, “As a current runner at cu myself, I can say that this person does not yet have an accurate depiction of the program at this point. I am saddened to read this, not simply because I disagree with it, but because I do not wish what I have endured at this program on anyone, including this person.”

Wetmore, registered dietician, Laura Anderson, and assistant coach Heather Burroughs were singled out in a Washington Post article citing Intile’s assertions. All three refute the allegations. The running world awaits the outcome of the inquiry.

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