September 16, 2020

Why Syracuse isn’t focused on field events

first_img Published on March 5, 2018 at 9:55 pm Contact Danny: | @DannyEmerman Facebook Twitter Google+ Since head coach Chris Fox arrived at Syracuse 13 years ago, the SU track program has found its identity as a distance running and hurdling powerhouse.Seven conference championships and a national cross country title later, it is clear Fox and his coaching staff have crafted a winning formula. Every track and field team in the country is constructed differently but has the same goal.“We’re always looking to score points in the ACC,” sprinting coach Dave Hegland said.How they score points, Fox explains, is the trick. By focusing resources on recruiting and training distance runners and hurdlers, SU balances excelling in certain events and disregarding others.By choice, SU does not participate in the triple jump, javelin, pole vault, discus and some other field events, seemingly forfeiting potential points.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“It’s not punting,” Fox said. “You can’t afford it. If we had two pole vaulters and that took away from distance running, we wouldn’t be winning the conference in cross country.”Because of NCAA scholarship restrictions and limitations from being an expensive private school, SU does not compete in every event, instead choosing to heavily recruit distance runners and hurdlers.In college track, programs get 12.6 scholarships for men and 18 on the women’s side. Even if split in half or thirds, that is not enough to field a roster fit to compete in all 20 track and field events.“If we had enough scholarships to cover every event, we’d do those,” Fox said. “If this was a state school and because you’re from Rochester, you could come here for $20,000 in tuition instead of $60,000, it would be different. Can’t afford it.“Not many kids’ parents are writing a check for 70 grand,” he added.Syracuse’s focus on hurdling showed in the ACC Indoor Championships. In the men’s 60-meter hurdles, SU had three finishers in the top six positions, including Matt Moore getting the silver medal. In the women’s race, Tia Thevenin placed fifth.Syracuse’s focus on distance runners and hurdlers paid off with an ACC team title in 2016. Courtesy of SU AthleticsSU is not alone in specializing. Fox points to Villanova and Georgetown, two similarly expensive private schools, who also focus in distance.One way SU separates itself is in recruiting. Justyn Knight, the ACC Indoor Championships MVP and SU’s highest-caliber track and field recruit in recent years, was introduced to Fox by a mutual friend who worked at Knight’s high school. When Knight visited the Syracuse campus, all other options were left in the dust.“When I came to visit and got to meet other coaches face-to-face, I felt like they valued me as more than just an athlete,” Knight said.Since his visit and ensuing commitment, Knight has won 10 individual ACC titles. He was a part of the 2015 national title team and won the men’s cross country individual national championship this past fall.Syracuse’s recruiting approach also impressed now-sophomore Aidan Tooker, who took silver in the 3000-meter race at the indoor championships. He decided to commit to Syracuse his senior year, a month before the Orange became national champions.“They were totally like, ‘Our goal is to win, we’re going to win. If you want to be a part of that, come here. If you don’t we’ll beat you,’” Tooker said.Syracuse validated Tooker’s commitment. No coaches will preach a losing culture to recruits. But for Tooker, Knight and other runners, the pitch from SU was more substantive.“I’m sure a lot of coaches sell it like, ‘We want to win,’” Tooker said. “But when you step in the locker room and see the everyday stuff, which I had to witness myself, either through interacting with the guys or being on the visit. The people who are doing it need to believe it, not just the coaches.”SU prioritizes recruiting the best runner in the state of New York. In 2015, Syracuse added Mickey Burke, the Gatorade New York Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year at Rush-Henrietta (New York) High School. The next year, the Orange added Tooker, who was the runner-up at the New York State championship meet for Saratoga Springs (New York) High School.Last year it was Noah Affolder, who spent his senior year in Pennsylvania after two years Carthage (New York) High School.“For me it was kind of simple,” the freshman said. “Can I see myself being coached to a national championship? And can I see myself being coached to potentially run professional?”At the time Knight was getting recruited, SU did not have an esteemed track and field history. But when Knight looked at the results, he said he could see they were steadily improving with “just average recruits.”“I wondered if I did actually give them a shot, what they could do to develop me,” Knight said. “It’s all been working out to my favor.”Fox’s recruiting emphases have helped bring top distance runners like Knight and Tooker to Syracuse along with top hurdlers Moore and David Gilstrap. In turn, the Orange has excelled in the hurdles and distance races — both on the track and in cross country — without needing other events to boost its point totals.“We’ve done it this way and it will stay exactly like it is,” Fox said. Commentslast_img read more

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