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Fox to the Fore at Syracuse

 

By Chris Getman (Nov-Dec 2005 NER)

 For the distance running community, especially those who
follow college athletics, Syracuse doesn’t pop into consciousness when
discussing competitive programs. In recent years, the program’s success has
been celebrated by a few All-American performances in the field and sprint
events.

Not since 1987 has there been a Syracuse athlete at the NCAA
championships in Cross-Country and not since the 1950s has there been a team
that traveled to the championships. In 1951, the Syracuse men’s team won the
NCAA Cross-Country Championship. In the early ’80s Syracuse had competitive
distance runners with the likes of Jim O’Connell and Charlie Bevier‰ÛÓwho went on
to terrorize the racing scene in the Northeast well into the mid ’80s.

Newly appointed Athletic Director Dr. Darryl Gross decided
it was time to make use of Syracuse’s resources and develop the Cross-Country
and Track teams as a whole. This summer, Gross and Senior Associate Athletic
Director, Mark Jackson, courted Auburn University Cross-Country and Assistant
Track Coach, Chris Fox, to begin a renaissance of sorts for the Syracuse
Cross-Country and Track and Field programs.

Not only will Syracuse have a
distance coach at the helm for the first time in eight years, but it will
likely concentrate on the distance events for years to come. Jackson, an avid
runner, had this to say about the selection of Chris Fox:

“He has proven to be extremely successful both as a
competitor and as a coach and his background has proven that he can recruit,
teach, and compete with the top programs in the country. His expectations, much
like mine, place us in the top echelon of track and field programs in the
nation.”

Fox is no stranger to the running community, having competed
in five Olympic Trials from 1980-1996. He also sports personal bests of 3:59.1
in the mile, 13:21 for 5K, 27:53 for 10K and 2:13:40 for the marathon. Nor is
he a novice when it comes to coaching in the collegiate ranks.

Prior to his
time at Auburn, Fox had coaching stints at the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill from 1984-1985 and at George Washington University from 1994-95. In
between coaching duties, Fox ran professionally for Nike-Athletics West and
most recently for Brooks Athletics.

Fox knows he has his work cut out for him. The northeast
region has been the stronghold of Providence, Iona and Dartmouth for years.
With the emergence of Columbia and re-emergence of Cornell in recent years, the
new Orange may make the Northeast region a hotly contested battleground for the
NCAA Championships.

“I want to change the way people think,” said Fox. “We want
to challenge Providence and Iona, we don’t want to just do well in the Big East
or IC4A’s. Dr. Gross has given me all the tools to build a successful program.”

Fox made some changes to the program within days of his
arrival at Syracuse. He immediately changed the 2005 Cross-Country meet
schedule and restricted travel in the first couple of months so that he could
get to know the athletes and the institution. Fox has his sights on taking the
Orange to the NCAA championships within the next three years. He arrives at
Syracuse with notable recent accomplishments.

At Auburn, he guided two
individuals to the 2004 NCAA Cross-Country Championships and three individuals
to the 2005 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Coach Fox has enlisted the help of Brien Bell, who comes
from LaSalle where he helped Coach Charles Torpey create some of the most
respected teams in the Mid Atlantic region. Fox states that one of the reasons
he came to Syracuse was because of the popularity of distance running in this
region of the country. “Cross-country [in particular] is much more revered in
the Northeast,” he says. “We want to broaden the horizons of the program both
figuratively and literally.”

Coach Fox has indicated that recruiting will be one of his
top priorities. He has a sincere interest in investigating some of the top high
school talent available. In addition to departmental resources, Central New
York offers many advantages to a college cross-country coach.

The Syracuse
community boasts some of the most successful high school distance programs in
the country; among them Fayetteville-Manlius, a team that finished 2nd at the
2004 inaugural Nike Team National Cross-Country Championships. There are a
number of high schools in the area that have produced a long list of
All-American distance runners, many of whom decided to attend college
elsewhere. This is a trend that Fox would like to curb.

“We do not want to let the Don Paige’s or the Jen Rhines’
go. We want to create a culture that attracts the top talent,” said Fox,
alluding to the Villanova graduates who both have roots in the Syracuse area.
Don Paige graduated from nearby C.W. Baker High School in 1975 in Baldwinsville,
and Jen Rhines graduated from Liverpool High School in 1992. Both had stellar
careers at Villanova and became Olympians.

“We are not going to let all of these kids get away,” states
Fox. “We’re going to be at

as many [high school] cross meets as our schedule will
allow, even the dual meets.”

 About the author: S. Chris Getman, a native of Ilion, NY,
graduated from Syracuse University in 1997 with a Bachelor’s Degree in
Architecture. He also competed on the varsity Cross-Country and Track and Field
teams from 1992-1997, and was captain of the men’s Cross-Country team in 1995 and 1996.

 


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