Track and Field

Ravens are young and on the run

  • The men's cross country team at FPU warms up in preparation for a long run in early September.
  • Hadley Doubleday, a sophomore at FPU and a Silver Lake Regional High School graduate from Plymouth, Mass., passes a competitor mid-race at the Bruce Kirsch Cross Country Cup held on the FPU course on Sept. 14.

Franklin Pierce cross country and track and field coach Zachary Emerson stood in the hallway of the Fieldhouse, addressing close to 40 collegiate runners sitting and stretching on the floor. In between asking what his athletes wanted to do for breakfast the morning of an early away meet and doling out the day’s workouts, Emerson cracked jokes with the men’s and women’s teams and took teasing jibes from his athletes. Emerson seemed to share an excited energy with his runners, and their connection appeared effortless.

Despite the easy feeling of the group, Emerson and his athletes are fairly new to FPU and collegiate running. Emerson, who is a New Hampshire native and who attended Hillsborough-Deering High School, began coaching at the college level in 2009, a mere two years after graduating from Division 1 collegiate athletics himself. The Mount Saint Mary’s alum spent two years in charge of the running programs at New England College in Henniker before beginning his career with FPU.

Emerson, who is helped by graduate assistant coach Sarah Lagasse year-round and by Howard Powell for the track seasons, is very pleased with the way things are going so far. “The success we’re having is the best case scenario,” he said. After a full year dedicated to recruiting before he began coaching, Emerson has put together a group of young men with some talent, including Concord High’s B.J. Smith, the 2012 New Hampshire Division 1 cross-country high school champion, and Merrimack Valley’s Colton Ham, the 2011 Gatorade State Boys Cross Country Runner of the year. “The men’s team is set up to do very well at regionals this year,” he said. FPU is ranked fourth in the region in Division II - the top three teams at regionals go to nationals.

The women’s team, who is spending some time rebuilding and is currently composed of freshmen and sophomores, is a year behind the men in recruits, but is promising according to Emerson. At the top of the roster is Salem High’s Alyssa Lambert, one of the best high school middle distance runners in 2011. “Right now, the women’s team is close to being in the top ten in the region. Realistically, we can think about making the top five at regionals, looking at the top three spots in the future,” Emerson said. He later added, “I have the feeling we’re just scratching the surface.”

This feeling is probably correct, given the FPU running program just had its first track and field season last winter and spring. Emerson sees the additional seasons, as well as a potential future outdoor track facility, as helping build his teams both from a training and a recruiting standpoint. The school becomes more attractive to high school runners, and it also allows Emerson more time to work with and help improve the athletes he has. “I want to set up a program for kids who come in, do the right thing, and get the most out of the work,” Emerson said. “We focus on the long-term. I care about how fast these kids will get over four years, not one.”

Danielle Koch, a sophomore from Coventry, Conn., feels Emerson’s method in action. “He has high expectations for us, but he never leaves us in a position where we can’t succeed,” she said.

Emerson’s expectations for his athletes reflect his overall goals. “I really believe in what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s like the domino that fell and began a chain reaction. Other people will want to be a part of something good.”

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