Cross country coach looks to create more training options

by Katie Hill / Beacon Correspondent • November 18, 2015

Now that the 2015 cross country season is over, runners face nine months without a structured program to participate in. With no other team offseason options offered, they will have to wait until next September to begin training again.

That is, of course, unless the athletic department implemented a track program.

Currently, Emerson and Clark University are the only members of the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference to not offer track and field to their students. The other nine schools all have varsity programs.

This idea was brought up briefly in conversation amongst the cross country staff,  said assistant coach Brandon Fox.

“We’ve had some very informal conversations with athletics, and there is acknowledgment that an indoor program would be good, in order to get our cross country program really moving forward,” Fox said.

If a track team were created, Fox said he thinks it could bring in students from outside of the cross country program.

“Maybe it would attract some new runners,” junior cross country captain Mike O’Connor said. “Track is a totally different concept from cross country. I think it would be good to have people run year-round if they wanted to.”

Sophomore journalism major Ali Reid, a member of women’s the cross country team, said she felt a track program would benefit not only Emerson runners but the athletic community as a whole.

“I know that we are working very hard to get people to our meets who might not be involved with sports,” Reid said. “It would help us so much if we were to have a track team, because not only does it appeal to the runners that are already in the cross country program, but it will also appeal to the people who might not want to run three or five miles, but who want to run just for the sake of running.”

Both Fox and O’Connor said that there are also some downfalls to starting a track team.

“[Track has] about a 30-40 person roster,” O’Connor, a visual and media arts major, said. “I don’t know if we’d have enough of a turnout for a team.”

Money and availability of a place to train is another issue that the department would have to face, Fox said.

“There are definitely limited venues in the city, and we would have to be very consistent with attendance to make it worth it. It would be very costly if we aren’t consistent,” Fox said. “Right now, [the three problems are] venue, cost-effectiveness and the ability to have an interest and maintain an interest.”

Fox said team running in the winter and spring is not an option, because the restrictions that the NCAA put on the coaches disallow off-season workouts.

“All of my cross-country athletes are now considered out of season,” he said. “That means that very little coaching supervision can be had before it becomes a slippery slope. I see my athletes all the time, and I can say ‘Hey, how are you,’ but I can’t tell them to go run six miles in January.”

For right now, the track team will just be an idea, the coaches said. Cross country will continue to be the only program for Emerson runners.

“Our main focus as a cross country coaching staff is that our athletes are happy, that they’re improving, and that they represent Emerson Athletics and Emerson College to the best of their abilities,” Fox said. “And the big positive there is that they already do that. Track would just be an addition to all that we already are.”