After a Controversial 2019 Season, The St. Mary’s Cross Country Team Looks Ahead to Next Season

The St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) Cross Country program has taken some hits throughout the Fall of 2019, ending the season with only five out of eight men remaining on the team and six out of nine women remaining. Despite the dwindling numbers of the team, the running Seahawks managed to turn in strong finishes in their meets, with Tyler Wilson (’22) consistently beating his personal records in many of his races throughout the season and leading the men’s team in times. On the women’s end, Marie Lewis (’20) was the first Seahawk to finish the women’s NCAA Women’s Mideast Regional Meet in Bethlehem, PA. 

Aside from lowering the morale of the team, the decrease in numbers of team members impacts the results of the remaining runners in meets, making it more difficult for SMCM to place, as there are fewer runners to score points and contribute to the team score. One team member who wishes to remain anonymous explained that the most challenging part of this past season has been “the loss of runners on the team and the tension between some of the runners and coach.”

The Cross Country program is currently under the coaching supervision of Head Coach Ryan Scanlon, who is the third coach of the program in three years. Scanlon has experience at the high school level, serving previously as the varsity girl’s cross country coach at South Carroll High School in Sykesville, MD. He led his team to a first place finish in the State Championship meet in 2018, garnering him the title of the Carroll County Times’ “2018 Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year.”

Despite his experience, Scanlon has struggled to click with his athletes throughout his first season at the helm of the program. One former team member, who has experienced the three different coaches in the past three years, noted that “each coach brings different strategies and different expectations to the team, making every year a new adjustment.” Former members of the program have complained of his poor communication skills, inadequate technical knowledge of the sport and a lack of respect for his athletes. 

“I did not feel valued as an athlete on the team,” explained a former member of the team, “and [Coach Scanlon] made it clear very early on that he was not willing to listen to our concerns or compromise with us in any way. It was a hard decision for me to make, and I have dearly missed running with my teammates.” 

While the new coach has presented issues for some of the runners, he has upped the level of competition in other athletes on the team. One runner mentioned that the program “has gotten more intense and strict” under Coach Scanlon, “and the team is treated more like a college sport and less like a club sport.” Another person noted, “Many people have quit due to disagreements with the coach, but those who have remained have gotten best times and really improved.” The divide in opinions regarding the new coach demonstrates the differing opinions on the current state of the SMCM Cross Country program.

 Despite the loss of runners throughout the fall season, the running Seahawks have maintained strong relationships with each other and, for the most part, did not allow controversy to stand in the way of their camaraderie as a team. It will be interesting to see what the 2020 season has in store for the SMCM Cross Country program.

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