By Coburn Gillies, For The Miami Student
Miami University cross country began the 2015 season Saturday with Willy Wood as its new head coach. MU adopted a joint model for the program in this new era, combining the men's and women's team into one.
Wood boasts 26 years of head coaching experience and is ready to lead the RedHawks to success.
"We want to establish a new culture and lay down the new foundation," Wood said.
Wood spent the past season as the track and field/cross country coach of Bradley University, where he led the women's XC team to a Missouri Valley Conference title. The Braves placed third at the NCAA Midwest Regional, their best regional finish in program history. The Bradley men's team also reached a program best, placing third at the MVC Championship.
Before that, Wood shaped Columbia University cross country into a powerhouse during his 20-year stint. The men's and women's teams combined won seven Ivy League titles and appeared in the NCAA Cross Country Championship nine times, finishing in the top five 20 times. His highest finishes were the men's eighth-place performance in 2013 and the women's eleventh-place performance in 2002. During his tenure at Columbia, he saw 68 school records broken and coached two Olympians and 29 All-Americans.
Miami's runners are excited for what the future holds.
"I think he will be really great for this program and will be really sustainable," senior captain Laura Bess said. "He is very positive, and he will be a great change for the program."
Bess said the runners have had no problem adjusting to the changes.
"We communicate well with Coach Wood and we have talked with him about what would make a conducive training environment," she said.
Wood has high expectations for his squad, and the athletes recognize it.
"Coach Wood is different. He puts emphasis on the little things," Bess said.
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Wood also focuses on building a strong atmosphere for his team.
"I always strive for an environment that fosters on camaraderie," Wood said. "We need to not only do things, but we need to do them together."
After placing fourth at the Flyer 5k Challenge on Saturday, the cross country team travels to Lexington, Kentucky this weekend for the Bluegrass Invitational.