09/25/2015 CALGARY…After an solid 2014-2015 season, their first in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC), the St. Mary’s University Lightning cross -country running team is looking to repeat that success as they embark on their second season of existence.

With former head coach Steve Adams taking a break from coaching, newly hired assistant coach Donna Dixon will be taking the reins from Adams, who led his four man running team to an ACAC Provincial and Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) appearance in 2014.

Dixon, another well-known name in the Calgary running scene, brings experience both as a coach and student-athlete, competing for the University of Alberta and the University of Toronto in cross country running from 1980-1986. Dixon has continued her running career to present as a competitive masters athlete in middle distance and cross-country running.

Despite the late start to her coaching debut in terms of recruiting, Dixon is confident the athletes who have currently committed to the 2015-2016 season will be key to laying the foundation of a growing program.

“We have a great core group of four student-athletes so far, two men and two women, who all have a great attitude toward training and competing for St. Mary’s.” says Dixon.

Dixon also recruited the help of Joseph Mills to add more depth to the coaching side. Mills, a former international endurance athlete, brings over 30 years of coaching at the national and international level.

When asked about the challenges taking on her head coaching role late in the training season, Dixon’s confidence is unwavering.

“I’m enjoying the challenge of building a strong cross-country program at the University.  We are starting with a small but strong base this year and looking to build on it. While I was hoping to be able to recruit a few more runners this year, I’m hoping I can use this year to build a successful recruiting campaign for the coming years. “

15570273688_61bb755b57_k-235x300Dixon’s group consists of three 1st year runners, with second year Biological Sciences student Chris White-Gloria the only returning runner from last season. After making a provincial and national appearance last fall, White-Gloria is ready to hit the ground running to get there again this year.

“Personally, I’m working towards having a second chance to represent St. Mary’s at the national level, this fall in Ontario. In general, it’s all about constantly improving my abilities, but racing against the best from across the country is still a big goal I’m aiming for.” says White-Gloria

Competing with a smaller team again this year, White –Gloria agrees that it’s all part of the process establishing a new program.

“As far as the team goes, I think that the focus should be to build a strong base for future seasons. But a strong base shouldn’t only be rooted in athletics. For our team, it will also be important to gain recognition from the sporting community in the hopes that we can grow.” says White-Gloria

He also adds that sometimes having a smaller team isn’t always a bad thing when it comes to training.

“There are some positives that come from having a smaller team. It’s great to have a close group of teammates and friends to practice with. It creates a truly unique environment for the sport. With Joe and Donna both coaching, we’re able to get very individualized training programs. The team’s smaller size lets us each have a chance to develop a relationship with each coach, which is certainly beneficial to our progress.”

White-Gloria and the rest of the team will travel to Lethbridge for their first meet of the season this Saturday Sept 26th, before returning home to race in Calgary, hosted by SAIT Polytechnic Oct 3rd.