By Harini Vakamudi
The commencement of the season brings immense change to the team through the addition of three freshmen and a new coaching staff. Furman University has recently welcomed head coach Robert Gary, assistant coaches Rita Gary, Jeffrey See, Cory Leslie, and Chris Neal and Director of Operations Scott Lucking.
The team has been “really excited for the upcoming year and the chance to work with [their] new coaches,” said Emily Wirzba, a senior. Additionally, the team has welcomed freshmen Jack Miller from Mountain Brooke, AL; Bradley Gossett, from Sandy Springs, GA; and Eva Estrada, from Falls Church, VA.
The greatest challenge for freshmen cross country athletes is adaptation to college training regiments. Though Furman’s cross country athletes join the team with achievements from high school meets, the expectations, endurance, commitment, and training requirements at the college level are distinctly greater than that of a high school cross country team.
However, Furman’s cross country team is also an intimate group of fourteen men and eleven women; more specifically, fourteen men and eleven women who treat cross country as a lifestyle and more importantly, a hobby, rather than just a sport or particularized aspect of life.
The small, familial dynamics, individualized attention from coaches, and early arrival to campus facilitates bonding between the freshmen and the rest of the team and helps the adaptation process to the training routine.
These dynamics, attitude, and size of the Furman cross country team are not the only traits which distinguish Furman’s cross country team. The athletes embody the Furman goals of personal development in multiple aspects of life.
Furman athletes are unique in that they can (and often will) choose to “study for the test the next day rather than get in that last practice run,” said Gary.
Though people historically posit on the pitfalls and challenges of Division I athletic programs, Furman University’s cross country team exemplifies the positive aspects and potential successes of such a program.
The team proved they are a force to be reckoned with at the Eye Opener with the women taking a close second place and the men finishing in fifth. Sinead Haughey, a sophomore this year, shined as she took first place in the 5K, while her teammates also obtained top finishes in their events.
With such a great start to the season, it’s clear that Furman’s cross country team will have a very successful season. The next event takes place Sept. 14 at the Mountaineer Open in Boone, N.C.