BY RICH PALZEWIC
We all deal with tragedies and hardships in life, but it’s how we bounce back from the adversity that counts.
2016 Bay Port graduate Paige Du Bois will get another chance to start over.
After spending her first two years in college running at the University of Minnesota in Duluth, Du Bois has transferred to Northern Michigan University (NMU) in Marquette, Michigan, after a series of events at Duluth left her searching for answers.
“The recruiting process is hard and there are a lot of things to take into consideration,” said Du Bois, who ran cross country and track and played basketball for two years while at Bay Port. “I went to Duluth because I needed that strong coach/athlete connection and I found that in coach (Joanna) Warmington. Other coaches were great where I visited, but I knew within five minutes of meeting her, it was a place I wanted to be. She made me feel great as an athlete and I knew she’d take care of me on a personal level as well.”
Du Bois was not only dealing with what college to attend, but also with the loss of her father during her junior year of high school, so it was a difficult time in her life.
“My dad was suffering from the effects of alcoholism pretty much from when I started my high school career,” Du Bois said. “I hadn’t spoken to him in about 10 months before he died, but in the spring of my junior year, I was called down to Forest Glen Elementary where my mom (Leslie) works. I was told my dad had passed. A lot of guilt came over me because I had shut him out of my life for such a long time.”
Du Bois said that things started off well at Duluth in the fall of ’16 where she ran cross country, but being five hours away from home wasn’t easy. Like many other college freshmen, she dealt with homesickness but fought through it.
“Coach Warmington helped me get through that initial semester,” said Du Bois, who is also the Bay Port record-holder in the 400-meter dash (58.6). “There was a great level of respect that we had for one another – I knew what her expectations were on the track and what I needed to get done, but I also could just pop into her office and chat with her for an hour about life. She quickly became more than just a coach to me.”
The 2017 cross country season went well as the previous season had, but Du Bois said she began to hear grumblings amongst the team entering the indoor track season.
“Five senior girls ended up filing complaints against coach Warmington,” Du Bois noted. “It was identifiable based on questions in the investigation. I had a great indoor season, setting personal bests and even surprising myself a little bit. I’m on this big high going into the outdoor season, and a week before our first meet, I lose my coach. She was placed on a leave of absence March 28.”
Du Bois could have no contact with Warmington and the team wasn’t told of the reasons why she was placed on administrative leave.
“The communication was cut off, so even after I could finally see my coach after 145 days, she wasn’t even sure what the complaints were,” said Du Bois. “That’s also stated in her resignation letter, so none of the complaints are even known. The hardest part was that it was coming from teammates.”
The complaints stemmed into an investigation by the university, and members of the program were allowed to talk about their feelings, which Du Bois was able to do on behalf of Warmington, but she feels other members of the team collaborated against her. Du Bois also mentioned that the university told Warmington that if she didn’t resign, she would be terminated.
“That was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to read in print,” Du Bois said about reading Warmington’s resignation letter this past August. “The whole time I was hoping for a better outcome and that she would come back. I think the university made the wrong decision.”
When Warmington was placed on leave, Du Bois had to seriously think about what would happen if she wouldn’t come back as coach.
“I did come to Duluth for her, so being up there without her being my coach didn’t feel right,” she said. “I got my release forms to be able to talk to other coaches and universities and got through the outdoor season day by day. I lost my love for the sport a little bit.”
In July, it became more apparent that if something happened with Warmington, Du Bois would be transferring to NMU, but she didn’t want to leave Duluth not knowing the outcome of the investigation.
“There was no way I could leave Duluth holding onto the possibility of her return,” she said. “I felt confident that she would. With the close relationship that we have, I couldn’t leave without seeing her or discussing the future of my running career with her first.”
After Du Bois felt the administration was basically trying to force her off campus because she supported Warmington, she decided that it would be best to transfer.
“I felt misled by the university in thinking my coach would come back,” she said. “When I would ask for meetings to discuss the situation, I was simply told that they were unsure of when she would be returning.”
Du Bois was also nursing an injury at the time and felt she wasn’t being given adequate time to evaluate her status, both physically and emotionally.
“I was told that red-shirting was not an option and that I had to make a decision quickly of whether or not I was going to compete for them,” Du Bois said. “I asked for more time due to the status of my injury but was told that I would not be allowed access to facilities until I made that decision. Even though I’d be two weeks behind in school (at NMU), I called head coach (Jenny) Ryan and asked if it would still be possible to get up there for the fall semester. In a matter of 48 hours, I withdrew from classes at Duluth and headed to Marquette.”
As to how she’s adjusting at NMU, Du Bois said “it’s been crazy,” but she’s doing well with her 14 credits of study in the psychology field and looking forward to resuming a normal life of running, even though she will have to do it without her old coach.
“I am overwhelmed by how welcoming and positive everyone has been towards me here at NMU,” said Du Bois. “The support I have received from coach Ryan during this difficult time has been a huge help in my transition. I am so appreciative to the athletic department here for working with me in order to make this all happen on such short notice. Fresh starts can be good. I want to bring everything I learned from coach Warmington to NMU. I am excited for what is to come and to lace up the spikes for my junior season.”