Cleary confident in his team heading into 2012
Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 00:08
For many, the 3-mile run the West Virginia cross country athletes endure daily is a marathon in itself. However, the real marathon for the cross country squad is the actual season.
It is a season that starts in summer and can continue all the way through June and July. During that stretch, athletes hit the pavement everywhere from scorching hot Texas to rural Kentucky, and some even try out for the Olympics.
It is a season that makes head coach Sean Cleary spend weeks in a hotel room preparing for races.
Sports such as football, basketball and baseball all have downtime. WVU cross country isn’t familiar with the term.
"Our preseason is all summer long and goes through September," Cleary said. "Any race is to get the feet wet and the competitive juices flowing and prepare for the season. Our biggest goal in the preseason is to be ready for Penn State and Toledo. We hold kids from certain races and play around to see where everyone fits best."
Cleary feels confident about the squad he is running this year. Instead of rebuilding the program with a bunch of new freshmen, he is taking this preseason and reloading the program with them instead.
"When a team brings in a bunch of freshmen, everyone considers it a rebuilding phase," he said. "With our freshmen we have this year, I see it as a reloading phase. We have a team that can compete."
Sarah Brault and Katie Gillespie help out their coach with preparing the freshmen and getting everyone involved. But it’s Cleary’s assistant coaches who are the true supporting cast for the team.
"My assistants help me with everything from getting ice baths ready to coordinating the workout for that day," Cleary said. "They really help with such a long season."
Before the season actually begins and meets begin to matter, coach Cleary needs a picture of what the team will look like. With a ton of incoming freshmen, the picture can look a bit hazy. But, that doesn’t stop him from thinking this team is grade "A."
"I already give this team an ‘A’ for preparation and effort," Cleary said. "It will be in the upcoming meets when we see if this team is national-title worthy."
It is ironic Coach Cleary used an "A" for his preseason grade, because that letter is a common theme among the ladies of the cross country team. They are the highest academic Division-1 sport at West Virginia, with an average GPA of 3.6.
The young cross country team heads into its first preseason meet August 31 for the WVU Alumni Open in Morgantown.