SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich.— We caught up with Cross Country Head Coach Rob Gallinger to discuss the upcoming season, his thoughts on beginning his third season at Lake Superior State and the future of the program at Lake State. Cross country opened its season on Sept. 7 at the Northwood XC Invitational and will head to Michigan State's Spartan Invitational this Friday, Sept. 13.
Q: You're entering your third season as head coach of the Cross Country and Track & Field programs. How has your role evolved over time and how is the program different now from when you started?
A: It's been a great couple years and I can't wait to see what this season holds! I don't know if my role has necessarily changed too much, I've just been able to more efficiently handle the program and expand the scope of what we're trying to do as a department. We're in a more stable place now, in no small part to the athletes that have bought into their training and the team itself. Having strong captains, like David Mitter and Becca Lathrop for cross country this year, give the team peers to take cues from, in and out of practice times. This has gone on the past several years and I feel like the team is in a better place for it.
Q: This summer, you brought in a new assistant coach, Roger An. What can you tell us about him and what will he bring to the program?
A: Coach Roger has been involved in seemingly every sport at one time or another and brings that experience here. He's got a great enthusiasm for the team, the sport and the department which has translated over to the athletes quite nicely. Roger immediately fits in with what we're trying to do with our team's strength and conditioning and continues to learn about all events so he can contribute to all aspects of the program.
Q: This year's Cross Country team has a good mix of returning upperclassmen as well as incoming freshman. Tell us about the team this year.
A: The cross country team is always a motivating group to be around. There's an excitement to getting out on the trails and different courses that you don't find in track and field. They're definitely diverse but bring it all together for the love of running.
Q: At the Northwood XC Invitational, three of the female Lakers (Rebecca Lathrop, Alexis Passino, Emily Merten) set personal records at the 5,000-meter distance. How exciting is that as a coach and what kind of tone does that set for the rest of the season?
A: Those times are a testament to the work they put in over the summer. The young ladies weren't content with the way their respective seasons ended last year and took it upon themselves to take a huge step forward. We're running for GLIACs and Regionals, so while this is a great start, I know none of them are going to take it for granted and let up on the hard work they're putting in.
Q: Last season, David Mitter qualified for the NCAA Division II Cross Country National Championships. What do you anticipate from him this season?
A: David already has high expectations for himself so my job is to support that as best I can. I anticipate that he'll run smart, take care of himself outside of practice and do everything possible to put himself in a position to go back to the National meet. David has been a great leader and teammate, as well as an exceptional athlete, and I have no doubt that he'll continue doing all the right things for himself and the team.
Q: What does having an athlete compete in the NCAA's do for Lake State Cross Country? How does it impact the current team as well as the future of the program?
A: It brings more attention to the program as a whole. People looking up standings see Lake State on there and want to go check out where this school is at and what it's about. From there, we get some more interest; people interested in David, the team, the department and then the school. 26 years is a long time to go without sending anyone to a National meet so it becomes noteworthy. We can use that to build our program into one that sends an athlete to the National meet every couple years, then maybe one a year, then who knows?