New XC coach ready for program’s 50th anniversary

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, September 12th, 2018 at 5:17 PM

Edinboro’s cross country teams have reported to Coach Foster a few weeks before the semester begins for fall camp every year since 2016, and this year was no different.

Except in 2018, Coach Foster had a new face.

That’s because Ryan Foster, who led the Fighting Scots to cross country and distance track success since joining the program in 2016, left in the spring to take a position at the University of Tennessee. This year, the distance runners reported to Clayton Foster, who had coached at Adams State University since 2013.

Clayton Foster took possession of a women’s cross country program which finished first in the PSAC championships and NCAA Division II Atlantic Region championships last year, and a men’s cross country program which placed second at those meets. Head Track and Field Coach and Director of Cross Country Operations Anne Cleary said the new coach brings even more winning experience to the program.

“His experience was a huge thing. He’s obviously very young, but the experience he has had in his short coaching career is huge,” she explained. “He spent the last five years at Adams State, which I don’t even think is arguably, I’d say it is the best Division II track and cross country program, and definitely from a distance track standpoint, in the nation.”

Cleary is hardly alone in her regard for Adams State, which is widely considered a powerhouse in Division II running. Since 2013 when Foster joined the program, Adams State won six combined NCAA Division II national cross country championships. They won a further three combined national championships in indoor track and field.

He credited Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Damon Martin for mentoring him and helping him develop as a coach during his time at Adams State.

“It all boiled down to you have to be a mentor to the kids and you have to be someone who’s extremely supportive and high-energy, and [you have to] just constantly be helping them become better individuals — not just better athletes,” he said of Martin’s teachings.

As a student-athlete at the University of Minnesota-Moorhead, he qualified for the national championships in the 800-meter run, the mile, the 1500 and the 4x400 relay. He also holds the school record in the 800 and was part of the school-record 4x1600 relay team in 2012.

He said he was drawn to the coaching position at Edinboro because of the small-town environment he would be surrounded by, along with the support he received from alumni in the hiring process.

“I grew up in a really small town,” he said. “[Adams State is in] a small town. Here’s just a place that when we came here on our visit, my wife and I, we felt that it was a great place to raise a family.

“[Edinboro’s alumni] reminded me a lot of what the Adams State alumni are like. They’re reaching out, constantly asking and seeing how the team is doing or what’s happening, and I’ve already received a lot of that here.”

He takes control of a cross country program that will celebrate its 50th anniversary and host the PSAC conference meet later this year. They will host a 50th anniversary reunion event as well.

“Tradition is very seldom as rich as it is here, and so I’m extremely excited to be a part of it now and build it,” Foster said. “I look forward

to the 50th anniversary of the program. That’s something special. Hosting PSACs? That’s going to be awesome. I plan to put on a sweet event.”

Cleary said Foster knows what it takes to guide Edinboro’s runners to consistently place high and become All-Americans, which will hopefully draw more interest for the sport.

“We want to have a lot of people here for our conference meet,” Cleary said. “And I think the better our kids do, the more you’re going to hear people saying, ‘Hey, I want to go out and watch a cross country meet.’ Which is maybe something a lot of people don’t say very often.”

Now that Foster is here, he’s ready to hit the ground running. He said his hiring process — which included being interviewed by a student-athlete panel — helped him get to know his athletes, and the upperclassmen have helped ensure the younger teammates feel comfortable despite having a different coach from the one that recruited them to join the university.

With both teams’ successes last year, Foster recognizes what his athletes are capable of.

He wants more.

“You have your entire life to be average, so these four years or five years, I’m going to get you out of your comfort zone and motivate you and care for you,” he said. “But I’m also going to really press you and try to get you to do something you never thought possible.”

Christopher Rosato Jr. can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com

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