UW Runners Claim Harassment by Former Coach

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University of Washington track athletes have come forward with stories of verbal and physical harassment by former head track coach Greg Metcalf.

A group of upperclassman distance runners presented the UW athletic department with a list of grievances just a day before Metcalf stepped down. According to the UW’s campus newspaper, The Daily, the students demanded something be done about Metcalf’s behavior or they would go public with information that Metcalf had been weight shaming, encouraging unhealthy eating habits, and making profane statements about his athletes.

According the track athletes to whom The Daily spoke, Metcalf was pushing track athletes to the brink of deterioration, shaming them for being “fat” and going so far as to grab their bodies, looking for evidence of weight gain.

Former UW track athlete Jamie Coughlin told The Daily that he decided to drop after his freshman year, citing a toxic culture as one reason for leaving the team. 

“A metaphor that was often thrown around was that he was just sort of throwing as many eggs at the wall as he can and seeing which ones would break,” Coughlin said. “He really pushed a lot of athletes to deteriorating. Which is what distance running is; it’s about toeing that line, but sometimes it seemed Metcalf would be willing to risk peoples’ health in order to have a strong team.”

Other athletes detailed an atmosphere of intimidation during mealtimes, and one-on-one meetings that were psychologically abusive and often included being pinched by Metcalf as he inspected their bodies.

“For me, I’m 6’3” and I’m 150 pounds and I’ve been like that all of college,” said Sumner Goodwin, who transferred from the UW to Gonzaga in 2015 and graduated from there this spring. “My body fat is 2.1 [percent]. If I was running poorly during a workout he’d come up to me and be like ‘Sumner Goodwin, how’re you doing?’ and touch my belly and feel my belly to see if there was any fat there. That was definitely a thing.”

Metcalf declined a request for comment.

Carter Henderson, the senior associate athletic director for external relations at UW, provided The Daily with a statement on the matter via email:

“On the morning of Thursday, May 17, University of Washington athletic department officials were made aware of student-athletes’ concerns of potential misconduct regarding Coach Greg Metcalf,” Henderson wrote. “As per departmental policy, athletic officials initiated appropriate processes immediately. In a meeting with athletic department personnel later that afternoon, Coach Metcalf determined that it was in the best interest of the program for him to step away from his position as head coach.” 

Metcalf’s conduct appears to have boosted attrition rates in the UW’s long-distance program. In the past five years, 41.7 percent of long-distance runners have left the program. That’s compared to 21.6 percent at Oregon and 27.3 percent at Colorado.

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