Track And Field

Syracuse specializes in more than just distance running

Courtesy of SU Athletics

Syracuse head coach Chris Fox admits his team specializes in certain events, but it's not solely a distance school.

Head coach Chris Fox sees the perception Syracuse is a distance school. He even agrees with it. But coming off an Atlantic Coast Conference indoor championship, where three hurdlers would have tied North Carolina and beat Boston College alone, SU is proving that it has more than just distance runners.

It’s a program of hurdlers, too.

“What we did (two weekends ago) is we showed that you can specialize and still be a contender,” Fox said.

The Orange has more athletes in the distance program than it has on the rest of the team. Fox was brought to SU to build the Orange’s cross country program, he said. Most of the running program’s funding is funneled to the cross country program, Fox said, because those runners can compete in all three seasons.

That’s part of the reason Syracuse has the reputation as solely a distance program. The perception was only reinforced when SU won the NCAA cross country national championship. But with the ACC championship win, SU has slightly tweaked the reputation.

“We are primarily a cross country team, but I wouldn’t say that that’s the identity of the team,” junior Philo Germano said. “The hurdlers are so good at what they do and it’s the combination of the two that allow us to do what we just did.”

Fox explained recruiting walk-ons is tough at a private school because tuition is high.
Many state schools have 35-40 walk-ons, Fox said, because runners can afford state tuition. Fox has built a stable of distance runners rather than trying to spread the surface with one or two great athletes in each event.

The Orange’s top six distance runners alone garnered 57 points and would have finished sixth in the ACC championships, one point shy of tying defending champ, Virginia Tech. Justyn Knight’s points alone would have tied him for 10th in the conference.

But Fox thinks of his team as more of a “hurdles, distance team with a little bit of sprinting.” SU has started ramping up its hurdles program, led by Freddie Crittenden, Richard Floyd, and David Gilstrap. They finished first, second and fourth in the ACC championships, respectively.

Specialization is able to work so well because of the size of the conference. Fox said that in a 16-team conference having immense talent in one or two groups is more efficient than having a deeper field in every event because the points are more spread out. In a larger conference, with more athletes, it becomes harder for a team with a deep field of athletes in one event to score as opposed to the mile for SU, where Joel Hubbard and Adam Palamar alone were able to obtain 14 points.

In recruiting, Fox said he, “doesn’t even look at throwers or pole vaulters.” The perception that SU specializes is true. Although Fox doesn’t know if any team has ever won a conference tournament by only scoring in five events, he’d guess not.

And until Syracuse gets stopped, Fox said the Orange will keep “doing what they do.”


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