The Furey of John

by Beacon Staff • October 27, 2011

strongChris Eyer, Beacon Staff/strong

Emerson coaches come from many different backgrounds, bringing varying levels of experience and credentials to the table. For cross-country head coach John Furey, his body of work does the talking — or the running.

Furey was named one of the top 100 trainers in the United States in the December 2005 issue of Men’s Journal Magazine. The article, which grouped the trainers by region, praised Furey’s marathon training at Fitcorp, a fitness center with several locations in the Boston area.

“It was an honor,” Furey said about making the list.He mentioned that the magazine told him they assembled the list by talking with others who worked in the industry.

Furey joined Emerson in 1998. During his time coaching the Lions thus far, many of his runners have  competed in the Boston Marathon, such as senior Brandon Fox and junior Heather Hoglund.

What makes Furey stand out among his peers, however, is his dedication to reducing injuries.

“Injury prevention — that’s the name of the game,” said Furey, who has worked at Fitcorp since 1985. “[I focus on] strength training to protect the joints.”

Furey also reduces the number of days athletes run to avoid putting too much stress on their bodies.

“He’s good about not over-training,” said Kyle Oppenheimer of his coach. “When I joined the team from high school, I was prepared to be doing 70 miles a week. He doesn’t want it to become a burden on you.”

Furey first got into the running game at Quincy High School, when he joined the cross-country team to get into shape for football, hockey, and boxing.

“I joined it for cross-training,” he said, adding that he grew to enjoy running more than the other sports. “I loved to push myself. I couldn’t get enough of it. I read books on the subject. I read everything I could get my hands on.”

Accordingly, Furey said one of his favorite books is Jim Fixx’s bestselling 1977 novel, emThe Complete Book of Running/em.

Furey eventually became the coach of North Quincy High while still studying at Bridgewater State College.

All the while, Furey said he kept in mind the importance of keeping healthy.

His management of freshman Ali Dokus is a perfect example of his philosophies of dealing with injuries. After tearing her quadricep and dislocating her shoulder her senior year in high school, she has been in the top three for the Lions this season. Dokus has remained injury-free all year and at the Pop Crowell Invitational she recorded a 20:28 on the 5k, good enough to rank 40th out of 270 runners.

“The workouts are spaced out really well,” said Dokus, who studies writing, literature, and publishing. “He tells me to listen to my body.”

Emerson’s cross-country teams are comprised of athletes from a variety of different backgrounds and motivations. Furey said the vast disparity in skill level challenges him to individualize his coaching to each runner.

“There are kids who never ran in high school,” Furey said. “There are kids running for fitness or weight loss. You can have a seven-minute difference between 5k times.”

With 33 runners in total this year, Furey said it can get difficult.

“But that’s how I like it,” he said. “All comers, no cuts — that’s what the sport should be like.”

Furey said this year’s teams are deep all the way through.

The women’s team has a mix of veteran runners and young talent. Second-year runners Heather Hoglund and Georgia Dixon lead the charge with freshman Dokus making it a trio.

Furey said that while the women have speed at the front, the strength of the men’s team is their depth in the middle.

“[The men’s] pack is deep from one to six,” Furey said. “They’re probably all within about 40 seconds [of each other].”

Emerson’s men are led by Oppenheimer, who studies electronic production and design at Berklee College of Music. He finished sixth in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship race last year and fourth in 2009, with a time of 28:24 both years.

Johnson and Wales University is still the gold standard on the men’s side, winning the title for three years straight.

The previous GNAC race was hosted by Saint Joseph’s College of Maine.

“There’s a lot of dips and turns,” Furey said of Saint Joe’s course. “They did kind of a bad job marking it, so if you’re unfamiliar with it it’s definitely more of a home course advantage.”

This time the race will be on familiar turf at Emerson’s home trail, Franklin Park.

Oppenheimer said he believes Emerson will perform well, although he added that Emmanuel College has improved this season.

The Lions will find out  just how they stand on Saturday, when they step to the starting line with a chance for both teams to win the championship.

emEyer can be reached at christopher_eyer@emerson.edu. Follow him on Twitter @prymetymechris. /em