Girls cross country adapts to new varsity running coach

Team looks to succeed under new leadership


Eric Simon coaches team at home meet (Wolf/LION).

Sydney Wolf, Reporter

With the start of the school year comes the beginning of the girls cross country season. Not only is the team coming back from COVID-19, they are coming back with a new coach, Eric Simon. Simon has been coaching for almost 20 years and has been running as a student athlete for seven years prior. While attending North Central College in 1988, Simon was coached by Al Carius, a cross country legend, according to the Chicago Tribune. Carius coached for 54 years at North Central and is one of Simon’s biggest role models and most influential mentors. 

Coach learned many things from Carius, however one thing that stuck with him after years of training is the significance of having a strong bond with your athletes.

“I think it’s so important to try to make a connection with your athletes, not just with them as a time or a number or a place, but as a person,” Simon said. “That’s what Al tried to do, and that’s what I try to do.”. 

The environment of everyday practices means a lot to Simon. 

“I really do want it to be the best part of their [XC runner] day when they come to practice, something to look forward to,” he said. “Being with their team and knowing that they can be with their friends for a couple hours a day. They know that they’re going to work hard.”

Sept. 4, the runners had their first invitational in two years and on a new home course. It was a strong start to the season where the freshman, sophomores, JV and varsity all placed first. A stand out quality for Simon was the demonstration of teamwork throughout the meet. The excitement, encouragement, and energy seen encapsulated the relationship between the athletes and their passion for the sport, he said. 

A strategy the girls carried throughout the meet was pack running, a strategy that is heavily encouraged by Simon.

“If you run together and push each other in a race, you’re going to have a better individual race,” Simon said. 

This year, Simon is looking to the seniors to be role models and leaders. He wants them to set a good example of the ideal runner and teammate for the freshman and sophomores. Maureen Patrick ‘22 has been running cross country for five years and gets to take on the high school sport for the last time this year. After spending the whole summer by themselves, the team was very open to someone new according to Patrick. 

“Since the coaching strategies are so different, sometimes it is hard doing such different things during workouts,” Patrick said. “But as a team, we just have to trust our new coach, because he has a lot of past experience coaching.”

As well as team goals, Patrick has also set some individual goals this season. She is focusing on running personal records in the postseason and finishing her high school cross country career with a fun and strong senior season after a junior year with COVID-19. 

Assistant Coach Greg Frandsen has been coaching track and field for 40 years and cross country for 33. The team’s goals for this season are to win conference on as many levels as they can and for varsity to place in the top ten for state, Frandsen said. 

“The coaches and the girls are excited to get back to a normal season of practices, meets and team activities after the [COVID-19] restrictions of last year,” Frandsen said. “We are always excited to see the improvement in performance from week to week and year to year.”