Sports

New head coach joins cross country squads

By
Sports Writer
Thursday, September 8, 2011

As the men and women of cross country train for their upcoming seasons, they are joined by Mitchell Baker, the newly appointed head coach of women’s cross country.

Before coming to Brown, Baker served as an assistant coach at Williams College, where he helped the Ephs win 11 Division III New England Regional Championships and coached 10 student-athletes who collectively earned 22 All-American awards. But, after four years at Williams, Baker decided to continue his education.

“I wanted to keep learning and set myself up to have a career in coaching,” Baker said. “Getting an advanced degree was a strong interest.”

Baker said he later re-evaluated his decision to attend graduate school once he was offered the position at Brown.  

“I just felt like I couldn’t find many other places like Brown to have my first head coaching job,” Baker said. “I already feel very comfortable here.”

Baker brings a unique perspective to the women’s program because he spent a few weeks during the fall of 2009 in Kenya, studying under the renowned former head coach of the Italian soccer team, Renato Canova. Over the years, Canova has coached multiple world champions, including Saif Saeed Shaheen, who holds the world record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

“He has an incredibly storied coaching history,” Baker said. “He emphasized how important it was to care about the athlete personally.”

According to Baker, he would write workout plans with Canova and the pair would spend up to 15 hours a day discussing coaching strategy. “A coach has to be watchful on what athletes do really well and then extend the talents,” Baker said. “Even thinking about limits is a self-fulfilling thing.”

Baker said he is seeking to translate what he learned from Canova into success for the women as he starts his first season on College Hill.  “The big goal is to be healthy and make really good choices every day,” Baker said.  

Last year, the women finished third at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships and seventh at the NCAA Northeast Regionals. Baker said he hopes they can match or exceed these past performances. Strong seasons can be expected from Ari Garber ’12, Heidi Caldwell ’14 and Margaret Connelly ’14, he said.

On the men’s side, according to co-captain Matt Duffy ’12, the team’s goal is to maintain a high level of fitness and place higher at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships and NCAA Northeast Regionals than they did last year. In 2010, they finished eighth at both competitions.

“The men’s team has a different level of fitness than we’ve had before — everyone is much stronger aerobically than last year,” said Duffy. “We have a much deeper pack.”

The men welcome back many of their top runners, including Duffy and Dan Lowry ’12. Additionally, nine first-years have joined the team, and Duffy said he expects some of them to make the varsity squad. Despite these gains, the team also graduated Christian Escareno ’11 and Brian Schilder ’11.   

Baker is also the assistant men’s cross country coach. “He’s very knowledgeable and very insightful,” Duffy said. “He has a keen ability to look at situations and dissect them and know how to proceed.”

The first meet for both men and women will be the Dartmouth Invitational in New Hampshire Sept. 10.

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