New coach implements changes to cross country teams

The+womens+and+mens+cross+country+teams+race+Saturday%2C+Sept.+21+at+the+Pop+Crowell+Invitational.+Courtesy+of+the+cross+country+team.

The women’s and men’s cross country teams race Saturday, Sept. 21 at the Pop Crowell Invitational. Courtesy of the cross country team.

By Ethan McDowell

For the first time in 21 years, the cross country team is running under new leadership. 

Brandon Fox ‘11, the new head coach of the Lions, served as an assistant under former head coach John Furey for the past seven seasons, after running for the team from 2008-11.

“I don’t have [Furey]’s presence anymore, and that’s kind of strange,” Fox said. “It was kind of weird pulling away from Piano Row last weekend for our first meet and he wasn’t there. He put me in a good spot coaching-wise, because he’s very loved and respected by the alumni here at Emerson and the greater Boston running community as a whole.”

Since gaining control of the program, Fox worked to change the culture of the team. 

“There were some things that needed to be changed,” Fox said. “I felt like the team wasn’t being as accountable as they should have been. They needed a reminder that this is a [Division III] program, and we need to step our competition level up. Our leadership needs to step up a little bit.”

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Fox said juniors Joey MacNeil, Maddie Lynch, and Taylor Ranney have emerged as leaders. 

“I’m excited for what they’re going to bring for the next couple of years here,” Fox said. “They’re great captains, and the team is off to a really good start under their leadership.”

As captains, MacNeil and Ranney adjusted how they lead the team to Fox’s coaching style. Ranney said the team organizes pasta parties every Friday to help with team chemistry. 

“Our last coach was a really sweet guy, and Fox is a little more serious,” Ranney said. “I think this year the captains are bringing more of a fun aspect to it as well because last year the coach was more fun and we were trying to be more serious.”

As a sophomore in 2018, MacNeil said he did not have the opportunity to mentor younger players since the team had no freshman. He said this year he became more of a role model for the freshmen. 

Fox said the most prominent issue that needed to be fixed going into the season was a lack of offseason training. 

“[Cross Country] is not just a physical sport,” Fox said. “It’s emotional [and] it’s mental. When they don’t train in the summer, you don’t have any of it.”

MacNeil and Ranney said the team came into the season in better shape compared to past years, which Fox also noticed.

“We were ready to go from day one. That’s a huge start,” Fox said. 

Fox said he used the team’s extra preparation as an opportunity to turn up the intensity of training. 

“It’s been weird doing actual workouts I hadn’t done since high school,” MacNeil said. “It’s been kicking my ass, but it’s good for all of us.”

Thanks to the extra training, the team hit the ground running. 

In their first meet of the season, freshman Oliver Glass placed fifth in the race, and the Lions completed the race with two other top-30 finishers in a field of 84 runners. The women also boasted four top-20 finishes in a race with 80 athletes competing. This included a 10th place finish from Ranney. The individual scores totaled up resulted in an eighth place finish out of 10 teams for the men, and a fifth place out of seven teams for the women. 

“Last year we were last on both sides with a considerable gap in between us and the next team,” Fox said. “Right now, both our teams are competing. That’s a strong signal to me that we’re in the right direction.”

The Lions will race in five more meets and will compete for a championship in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference. MacNeil said he considers the NEWMAC to be one of the toughest conferences for cross country in Division III, yet he is still optimistic. 

 “I think we’re gonna have a chance to really give a couple teams a run and surprise some teams,” MacNeil said.a

The Lions get back in action on Sept. 21 when they travel to Gordon College to compete in the Pop Crowell Invitational. 

Copy Managing Editor Abigail Hadfield did not edit this story due to a conflict of interest.