Cross Country changes coach, training

Nathan Bottiger, Managing Editor

Pitt-Johnstown’s Cross Country Women were joined by a Men’s team at their first invitational this weekend along with a new but familiar head coach.

Head Coach Shane Valko has one more title he can boast. He is also an assistant coach for the wrestling team and runs a mixed martial arts club in the mat room.

Valko joined the team over the summer after the departure of Jim Bowser, who coached the team for the last three years. Valko said he jumped at the chance.

“I helped out two years ago and loved it. When the position opened up, I applied.”

Valko said he does not have any confliction between the multiple organizations he is in.

“I have been managing my time to accommodate all of the different things I’m involved with.” He said. “It does make for a long day though.”

Valko said he is having fun coaching this group of runners, and he could not have asked for a better group of individuals.

“They are so motivated, and they truly are like a family.”

Junior Elena Mingora said the new coach has bonded well with the players and has been implementing a variety of changes into their workouts.

“He’s definitely pushing the team more than we were pushed last year”

Mingora said Valko started working cross training into their practices. She said the team now swims on Tuesdays and trying to incorporate lifting, polymetrics, and core building into their workouts as well.

“He’s not only making us better runners, he’s makingus better athletes mentally and physically” She said. “It’s definitely helping us become more well-rounded.”

Valko is also the head coach for the newly formed men’s team, which only has one competing member at the moment.

Sophomore Anthony Nguyen said that he helping to get his brother Matthew Nguyen on the team, and Valko is doing some recruiting as well.

Nguyen said the new workout routines Valko has implemented have yielded great results, and the new coach has really analyzed the runner’s strengths.

“He is very encouraging.” Said Nguyen. “He is good at finding out our strengths like mental toughness and endurance that other athletes lack.”

Both teams competed Saturday at Seton Hill University’s invitational. None of Pitt-Johnstown’s runners place, but Nguyen and Mignora both said it went well regardless.

Nguyen said the invitational was a good learning experience and also a priviledge to be the first male to compete for Pitt-Johnstown.

“It feels pretty awesome being the foundation or staring blocks.” He said. “The match for the fire.”

Nguyen finished with a 33:36 time, and said he was comfortable with that time because that is where he expected it to be, despite being on a route that he did not expect.

“I definitely needed to adapt my race strategy due to the longer distance and because of the hills on the course” He said. “Definitely one of the toughest courses I have ever ran.”

Seton Hill’s route spanned 8 Km., approximately 5 mi.

Mignora said the women also performed to their own expectations and can use this invitational as a learning experience to build on as well. She said the whole team improved from their performances last year.

“None of us placed, but all the times were improved from last ear which is an accomplishment due to the fact that the course was so hard.”