GREENSBORO (September 1, 2017) – Avoid trying be something you are not. Duane Ross, North Carolina A&T’s director of track and field programs, will use that adage as the women’s cross country team heads into the 2017 season.
Despite the dominance Florida A&M has asserted over the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, winning the last five championships, Ross expressed excitement about his 2017 women’s team. One reason is because they are talented. The second reason is because he is going to let them be who they are as athletes, thus making them more competitive.
Sophomore G’Jasmyne Butler, an All-MEAC performer and the N.C. A&T Female Rookie Athlete of the Year, serves as the perfect example of Ross’ philosophy. Ross and his staff struggled to figure out what event Butler should run last season, the 800 or 1500 meters. Trying to make that tough decision was coupled with the fact she was also training to be a cross country runner during the school year. This year there is no confusion about where Butler will compete. She is an 800m runner, and she will train as an 800m runner even during cross country season.
“Make no mistake about it, G’Jasmyne is one of the toughest athletes I have ever had the pleasure to be around,” said Ross. “We are depending a lot on her this year. This year she is going to be a little more grounded because we as a coaching staff are going to do a better job of giving her a little more direction. She is not going to do the volume of running she did last year. Instead of trying to make her a 5k runner for a few months, we’re going to let her train the way she needs to train for the 800.”
Butler will not be the only Aggie who falls under this concept. All nine women’s cross country runners will have events in track and field they will focus on during the fall while they toil in the rigors of cross country races.
“We’re not going to give them 70, 80 miles per week. They’re not those type of athletes,” Ross said. “Right now, we have 400, 800, 1500 meter runners, and we have to treat them as such. I think last year in cross country we put them in a position where they ran a lot of miles. This year, we are going to put them in a position to compete. We’re going to get them as fit and as strong and as fast as possible.”
The expectation is seniors Miranda Green and Imani Coleman will join Butler to form a formidable trio. Green was the Aggies leading runner for two straight seasons. She ran an impressive 19.30.6 in the 5k at the Elon Invitational in 2015. Coleman’s best time in the 5k came two seasons ago as well. She ran a 20:18.2 at the 2015 MEAC Cross Country Championships. If sophomore Camille Martin can improve upon her three top-10 finishes as a freshman, which included a seventh-place finish at the 5k Elon Invitational in 21:30.5, the Aggies could make a step toward catching up to FAMU.
Newcomer Nia Lundy, a Mount Vernon, N.Y., native will also figure into the Aggies’ plans. Ross called her a true competitor who will train as a 400m/800m runner. Her competitive drive will also allow her to do well at the conference cross country championships, Ross said.
“Our women’s team is strong. I’m excited about this team,” said Ross. “I think Camille had a tremendous freshman season. She is back and she is hungry. She wants to compete at a higher level this year. Our ladies are going to be very competitive.”