By: Hayden Cox, Columnist
One of Furman cross country’s buzzwords for the last five years has been “culture.” hile the coaching staff can facilitate it, any athlete can tell you it is the members of the team, usually the upperclassmen, who build the team’s culture. The first group of recruits under Coach Robert Gary has largely built the culture of Furman’s running programs, a culture that has been central to five straight Southern Conference Cross Country titles and a host of other achievements.
One of the athletes who has been especially central to the team’s development over the last five years is Lee Shearer, a redshirt senior with a double major in Physics and Applied Math. While he already has a number of academic publications and could have graduated last year to pursue his Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, Shearer, along with several of the teammates in his class, chose to stay and add his leadership to a team with a chance to be at the podium at the National Championships, currently ranked seventh in the NCAA.
Originally joining the team as a walk-on, Shearer has worked hard to earn a scholarship and become a key part of the team, scoring multiple times for the team at both the SoCon Indoor & Outdoor Track & Field Conference meets throughout his 5 years, including a 14:47 5k to finish third at the SoCon Outdoor Championships in 2015.
“The best part of the past five years has been the connections and relationships built along the way. Furman has given me endless opportunities,” Shearer said, grateful for the experiences he has had as a Paladin. But Shearer underestimates his accomplishments as a leader and culture builder.
“Lee has been instrumental in building the program since the beginning. He’s taken time away from his own training to help pace me through track workouts as well as pulled me through some hard long runs. I’m a better athlete because of him,” said five-time All-American teammate, Allie Buchalski.
Sophomore teammate and 2016 5000m NCAA Regional Individual Qualifier, Mason Coppi added his own words of respect for Cross Country’s beloved teammate, “Lee always makes practice fun. He can always crack a joke to lighten the mood even when we’re miserable and tired. No matter how he’s feeling, he’ll do just about anything to get you through a workout.”
With his leadership skills and commitment to his teammates, Shearer exemplifies the qualities of an Influential Paladin.