Early outdoor track and field meets were held in the College Grove on the southeastern portion of the campus. In 1893, a 390-yard track with banked curves replaced a shorter track that had been laid out there some seven years earlier. From 1893 to 1905, during the period of Mrs. Perkins’ letters, Union typically participated in two intercollegiate meets per year – usually doing poorly.
An exception was the performance of Charles Kilpatrick, Union’s best runner, who broke a world record for the half mile while wearing the College’s colors in September of 1895. Controversy surrounded Kilpatrick’s achievements, however, and Mrs. Perkins wrote at length about his time at Union. (Kilpatrick would eventually move on to Princeton, where additional controversies about his running career arose.) At the time Kilpatrick broke the world record, Union was already in trouble with its intercollegiate athletics league, which claimed that the College allowed athletes who were not bona-fide students to participate in competitions. Union itself was banned from competing in intercollegiate sports for three months once it was determined that it had previously allowed Kilpatrick to represent the College before he was eligible to do so. Union in turn banned Kilpatrick and three other runners from competing because of too many failing grades. After unsuccessfully trying to force the faculty committee to change their minds, the student athletic body went on strike and canceled the Union Track and Field program entirely. Mrs. Perkins wrote with some amusement that “the putting an end to athletics was to punish and terrify the faculty, and now they awake to see that the faculty though sorry for the boys, are not horrified, and even suspect that it may be a good thing” (May 11, 1896). The students soon realized the folly of their plan, and athletics resumed, but the Kilpatrick controversies resulted in the passing of new eligibility rules for college athletes nationwide.
The old running track no longer exists, although it would eventually be replaced by upgraded facilities on Alexander and Bailey fields.