Jimmy McCue / The Collegian
Sophomore runner teams with new coach to revive cross country
Two men are going the distance in an effort to revitalize the cross country program at Fresno State.
One is a sophomore who has already become one of the leaders of the pack.
The other is his coach, pushing the entire team to run towards improvement.
Coach Sean McManus and Erick Garcia are helping the cross country team get a fast start on becoming one of the top programs in the conference right now and for years to come.
New coach faced organizational challenges
â€œThe thing about running cross country and track is that if youâ€™re doing it right, youâ€™re at your best at the end of the season,â€ McManus said.
The first-year coach went through the struggles of getting his team to become a changed group before the season began, but has noticed that his athletes have started to hit the ground running.
The men took second in the Nevada Invitational to kick off the year and placed sixth in the Asics/UCI Invitational in Irvine.
The women earned a third place finish at the Nevada Invitational and took 13th in Irvine.
â€œWeâ€™re definitely progressing,â€ McManus said. â€It was a little chaotic in the beginning because the style and coaching staff was different. It took a little while to adapt to the change of style, and once we got that down, weâ€™re now making big strides.â€
McManus came from Florida State University, where the Seminoles dominated the track and distance events with three NCAA Championships from 2006 to 2008 while he was an assistant coach.
â€œI felt like I learned a lot and contributed a lot to the success of those teams, but they were already established programs when I got there,â€ McManus said. â€œThere was potential here in Fresno to get at that kind of level and to really be a part of making that happen.â€
Garcia earns recognition, brings history of excellence
One man clearly getting used to McManusâ€™ coaching strategies is former Parlier High standout Erick Garcia.
â€œItâ€™s been a really good, productive year,â€ said Garcia, who has received many accolades in his young Fresno State career.
On September 8, 2008, Garcia was named WAC Athlete of the Week. The sophomore outran 130 other competitors to take fifth at the Asics/UCI Invitational to receive that honor.
He was also a Second Team All-WAC selection in 2007 after finishing 11th overall in the conference championships.
Garcia has noticed a change in running style courtesy of his new coach.
â€œLast year, I started off fast and felt that I ran faster until the end. I started to slow down,â€ Garcia said. â€œThis year I was running slow at first, but I feel like Iâ€™m picking up.â€
While at Parlier High, Garcia won the league and Valley Championship three times in cross country. He was also a track and field star by becoming a two-time Valley Champion.
Workout strategies, attitude boost new season
Garcia also runs track and field for Fresno State as a distance runner.
He has mostly benefited from the workouts during the season under McManus, focusing more on strength than speed.
â€œThe workouts are different from last year,â€ Garcia said. â€œThe workouts are faster and stronger.â€
McManus wanted to concentrate on Garciaâ€™s consistency, focus, and training to make him better than a year ago.
â€œI kind of knew right away that we needed to become more consistent with him,â€ McManus said. â€œWe want him to train hard and to focus on the right things.â€
Even with a change in philosophy, Garcia still considers himself the man to beat at distance running.
â€œI consider myself the fastest because nobody has beaten me before,â€ Garcia said.
â€œErick is our leader by example,â€ McManus said. â€œHe doesnâ€™t complain about anything, question any of the training in a bad way, he just goes out there and does it. He does it because he wants to get better and that really sets the tone for the rest of the team.â€
Garcia wants to continue to run at a high level, but also wants his team to get better.
â€œI want us to win the WAC,â€ Garcia said. â€œWe want to get into the Top 25 Regional. I want to advance into Nationals.â€