Anasthasia Shilov, Illustrations Editor and Zully Arias, Production & Design Editor

“Behind the Venue” is a series of feature-form articles that dives into the history, character and most memorable moments of Yale’s various athletic forums — from stadiums and fields to pools and boathouses. While not all articles in the series will resemble one another, all attempt to take a deeper look into how these places came to be and how they have fared over time. This article is the 11th in the series.

Since its opening in 1928, Coxe Cage has served as the home of Yale men’s and women’s track and field.

With an oval track, eight interior sprinting lanes, a sand pit, a pole vault and more, the facility supports competition for all running and field events, including throwing events like the shot put. Charles Edmund Coxe, the namesake for Coxe Cage, was a hammer thrower who graduated from Yale in 1883. Coxe later donated $300,000 to the University for the project with the intention of the completed construction being named after him, and his name has become synonymous with one of the most historic venues in the sport.

Many athletes today consider it to be one of the most lively indoor track and field facilities in the country.

“So many people are bustling around, and there are races happening every few minutes,” sprinter Lauren Stavig ’22 said. “There are also jumpers jumping, athletes warming up, spectators cheering on competitors and other activity constantly happening. You can literally feel the adrenaline.”

The News called the new surface at Coxe Cage “revolutionary” after a $1.9 million upgrade in 1982. (Photo: Yale Daily News)

Renovations to Coxe Cage

Coxe Cage has undergone two major renovations since the early 1980s to allow athletes to continue to use one of the most historic track and field facilities in the country. In 1982, Coxe Cage underwent a $1.9 million facelift that transformed the building. The 1982 renovation also involved the installation of a new track that the New York Times hailed as “one of the world’s fastest” — the addition of the En-tout-cas oval and infield was a hallmark feature of the renovation, and the mounting of the track allowed runners to train with less strain. Later, in 1988, Yale added another track within the Cage.

After a long period of wear and tear, the facility required another upgrade in the mid 2000s. The 2005 renovation, which made the track banked with an incline, was funded with a donation from Donald Roberts ’57. Roberts proceeded to name the track within Coxe Cage after Frank Shorter ’69.

Shorter, a legend within the United States running community whom Runner’s World called “the father of the modern running boom” in a 2018 profile, served as a Yale cross country captain as a student and captured two Olympic medals, including gold in the marathon at the 1972 Munich games. A 1984 inductee into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, he remains the only American athlete to win two medals in the Olympic marathon event.

“Yale does a great deal of community outreach with the [Coxe] Cage, and I hope this will enhance the effort,” Roberts said at the dedication in February 2005, during which Shorter also ran a commemorative solo lap around the track. “Frank Shorter is one of Yale’s great athletic heroes, and this is a great way to honor him.”

A trademark skylight and a speedy track

The Cage has gone through numerous renovations and projects over the years, but two things have remained consistent: Coxe’s iconic skylight and the banked track’s trademark speed. When Yale first opened the facility in the 1920s, its half-mile relay team ran an exhibition race in 1:32.4, a mark that was better than any previous indoor time.

Yale’s Director of Track and Field and Cross Country David Shoehalter said he ran his fastest times as a former student-athlete at Penn when he raced at Coxe Cage.

“I probably ran 15 races here,” Shoehalter told the News in 2013. “Every year I would run my best times here.”

The creation of a banked track at Coxe in 2005 only increased its speed. A 2012 study commissioned by the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Committee found that banked tracks tended to result in faster times. According to the study, the only other college in the Ivy League with a banked track is Harvard’s Gordon Indoor Track Facility.

Coxe Cage features a 26,000 square-foot skylight that lets in sunlight from the center of the roof. (Photo: Courtesy of Yale Athletics)

The banked track provides an advantage for runners, but it also requires a bit of an adjustment for some athletes, including Yale sprinter Sydney McCord ’24. McCord, who is from California, was mostly accustomed to competing on outdoor tracks in high school.

“My first time going to the Cage and running on the track was so foreign,” McCord said. “It was more of an adjustment than anything else because the track is half the size and banked at an angle.”

While some runners take time to adjust to the unique nature of the facility, the aesthetics of Coxe Cage are an attractive feature for athletes. “When going through the recruiting process, Coxe Cage was definitely a factor in my decision,” Stavig said. “It was by far the best indoor track I’d seen from any other school I was looking at.”

Coxe Cage features a 26,000-square-foot skylight that lets in sunlight from the center of the roof. A steel frame matrix rises about 80 feet from the ground to support the roof and skylight, which was restored in 2013.

“There is no other … track building that’s anything like this,” Shoehalter said. “To bring someone in here and tell them you’re gonna train here every day is an attraction to people.”

The banked track provides an advantage for runners, but also requires a bit of an adjustment for some athletes. (Photo: Lukas Flippo, Photo Editor)

‘Where I was reborn’: Coxe Cage as a refuge for athletes

Sprinter Trenton Charles ’22, a former Yale football running back, considers Coxe Cage a place of refuge. Charles, whose Instagram handle is fittingly “_theblur__,” was originally recruited out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as a three-star recruit for football. At Yale, he used his speed as a change-of-pace running back and kick returner during the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Charles’ football career came to a screeching halt after he suffered a concussion that caused him to hang up his cleats. Charles, however, found a new home outside of the Yale Bowl at Coxe Cage.

“Coxe Cage means the world to me,” he told the News. “It’s the place where I was reborn, the place I learned to fly again.”

And fly he sure did. He ended up breaking the school record in the 60-meter dash and won the event with a blistering 6.75-second sprint at the 2020 Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet.

Sprinter Trenton Charles ’22 holds the school record in the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.75 seconds. (Photo: Courtesy of Sam Rubin ’95/Yale Athletics)

“As soon as I moved to track, it changed,” Charles said in an interview with The Advocate. “I was able to work hard every day and I felt like I could finally show what I could do.”

Sprinter Aliyah Cunningham ’22, who has had to battle injuries throughout her time competing at Yale, emphasized Coxe Cage’s personal importance to her during an interview with the News. The Sarasota, Florida, native views the Cage as the setting for a pivotal part of her development as a person.

“For me, Coxe Cage is significant in my coming-of-age journey at Yale because it is where I’ve had my most trying challenges,” Cunningham said. “It wasn’t until I truly embraced the journey and looked back on my time training in Coxe Cage that I’d realized it was the space where I’d not only experienced the most physical growth, but emotional growth as well.”

Coxe Cage has hosted eight ECAC championships and three national scholastic championship meets.

BENNIE ANDERSON