|Dan Lee, right,
coaches East Carolina's men's and women's
cross country teams and the Pirate track
team's middle and long-distance runners.
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College students understand academic analogies perfectly,
so East Carolina cross country coach Dan Lee capitalizes on their
classroom experience to outline the progression of the team’s fall
Daily practices are like class time, with periodic
high-intensity workouts comparable to labs. The stretching, nutrition and
rest management and extra running they do on their own are the homework
assignments, and the smaller meets in the season are quizzes.
The Pirates commenced their season with two quizzes — the
Covered Bridge Invitational and the Seahawk Invitational — and last weekend
they faced their first major test of the season with the Adidas Cross
Country Challenge in Cary. As far as Lee is concerned, they passed.
“A quiz is important but its not as important as a test,”
said Lee, starting his seventh season leading the team. “A test is important
but its not as important as an exam. For the first two meets, they learned
how to race well — how to pace themselves, control themselves, finish
strong. This was a real test.
When the grades came back from that test, they showed
numerous personal records, one school record, three top ten finishes and a
third place overall finish by the men’s team in a field of 11 teams. With
their one home meet coming up on Friday followed by two large invitationals,
the Pirates are paving the way for the focused goal of a Conference USA
title in early November.
“This year, basically everybody’s just working together
and feeding off each other in practice,” said redshirt junior Chase Miller,
who finished 10th out of 106 in Cary as ECU’s top finisher. “Everybody’s
just kind of bringing their A game.”
Miller’s 5,000-meter time of 15:12.8 was a new ECU record
at that distance, and teammates like Brather Cline and Dylan Traywick topped
their own personal records by significant margins. On the women’s side,
redshirt senior Brooke Kott crossed the finish line first among Pirates with
a 17:57.7 for 20th place. Kott also placed first at the Seahawk
Invitational, pacing her team to the championship at that event.
Kott sat out last cross country season, and Lee said that
she is significantly faster and better prepared than she was two years ago,
when she was named All-Conference USA. The break made her hungrier to win,
she said, because it was hard to watch her teammates compete without her
“I’m really excited about how this year is looking and
how the team is looking,” said Kott, whose twin sister Britney also ran for
the ECU squad.
One of Lee’s principles involves seniors taking
leadership and teaching younger runners how to thrive in the Division I
setting, and both the men’s and women’s teams have cores of experienced
athletes who take that mentoring process seriously, he said. Two of the
freshman women, Caitlyn Sheva and Sydney Teague, have turned in outstanding
performances this season already, but Lee is careful not to set the bar too
high through their adjustment process.
“One of my philosophies is, you hope in the freshmen but
you don’t rely on the freshmen,” he said. “Even without the freshmen, we’re
better than we were last year.”
The Pirate Nation can see the runners in action on Friday
at the ECU Pirates Invitational at Lake Kristi against St. Augustine, North
Carolina Central and Shaw. “It’s a beautiful venue to have a cross country
meet, and our friends and family get a chance to come watch us,” Miller
After the home meet, they will travel to the Paul Short
Invitational in Bethlehem, PA — one of the largest collegiate cross country
events in the country with 150 teams — and then the pre-nationals in Terre
Haute, IN, before competing in the C-USA Championships in Denton, Texas on