By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart
It’s no secret that athletic programs at SUNY Broome are flourishing. More than ever, Hornets from several teams are advancing to regional and national tournaments and championships each season. A leader in SUNY Broome’s triumphant return in athletics is the College’s cross country team. The men’s cross country team in particular has won NJCAA Region III Championship in 2019, 2021, 2022. In 2021, the team finished 4th in the nation. Exactly one year later, they returned to NJCAA XC National Championship and mirrored their 4th place finish. This exceptional collection of student athletes is led by Coach Tom Carter, the longest tenured coach in the SUNY system, not to mention a legend in the running community.
Cross country running has the unique distinction of functioning as both an individual and team sport. The athletes have to keenly compartmentalize their running to align with the goals of their team, while also working to achieve their personal record. Another anomaly of the sport is the overly supportive racing community in which competitors from the region all know one another, keep tabs on racing statistics, and equally respect the triumphant, yet humbling balance that competitive running fosters.
It is this level of esteem for the sport that brought together once fierce competitors from the region’s top high school cross country teams and created a squad of runners so supportive and cohesive, that they behave more like a family, than a group of Division III athletes.
While they share many commonalities, each runner was drawn to SUNY Broome’s cross country team for a different reason. For second year Liberal Arts and Sciences: General Studies: A.S. (Teacher Education) student, Eric DeHart, his decision to run for SUNY Broome was based on a positive recruitment experience that he shared with Coach Tom Carter.
“Of all of the schools and coaches that were speaking to me throughout my senior year, Coach Carter was the only coach to personally come up to me, shake my hand, compliment my work ethic, and invite me to join his team. Everyone else just contacted me through phone, email, or mail. Coach Carter was so kind and genuine and I really appreciated his personal welcome to the team,” said DeHart.
DeHart’s cross country teammate from Vestal Senior High School, Conner Smith, did not initially have running for SUNY Broome on his radar. Instead, Smith planned to attend a private, four-year university in the heart of New York City. Two weeks before he was required to commit to the university and to their cross country team, he began to have second thoughts. A quick meeting with his school counselor, his Vestal coaches, and Coach Carter, solidified that SUNY Broome was where he was meant to be.
“I’ll never forget my meeting with the coaches from Vestal’s cross country team. They said, ‘We are turning them over to you.’ Their trust in me to continue coaching these fantastic student athletes was very humbling and a great honor,” shared Carter.
Both Dehart and Smith were instrumental in SUNY Broome’s 4th place finish at the 2022 NJCAA XC National Championship. Smith led the way with his 4th place finish, the highest placing in the national meet for a SUNY Broome man in the history of the College’s cross country program.
When Coach Carter isn’t out recruiting runners, his team is working on his behalf. Jakob Getchell and Riley Transue knew each other from the local running community and became cross country teammates at Mansfield University. When Getchell decided to transfer to SUNY Broome and join the cross country team, he encouraged Transue to return home to the Southern Tier and do the same. Over time, past teammates, past competitors, and some new talent came together to create a dream team.
While each runner has their own style, rituals, and pre-race power menu, there are two constants. The first is their deep respect for Coach Carter’s unconventional training. His atypical workouts are intense, but they condition each runner to tackle every race with confidence. The second is the team’s pre-race prayer on the start line.
“Everyone is on board with it. We find that it helps to level us out. It calms the guys who are jittery and hypes up those of us who need that extra boost,” said Dehart.
With their season officially concluding in November on the high note of nationals, the team is reshifting their energy to their respective academic courses. Amongst them are future educators, health care professionals, and entrepreneurs. While their career paths may differ and may be uncertain at the moment, their love of running will remain a consistent, lifelong passion.
“Certain, special teams stay in touch for decades. They become brothers and sisters and support one another throughout their lives. This is one one of those special teams.”
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