Although first year head cross country coach Mallory Dunn is new to college coaching, she brings with her a long history of personal success in the sport. As a standout in both track and cross country at nearby Seabreeze High School (where she holds numerous school records), she was both an FHSAA 2A Cross Country Champion (18:23 for 3.0 miles) and the 2000 FHSAA Track 3200 meter champion (11:25). She went to further athletic success as a "walk-on" at the University of Florida. Competing as a member of both the track and cross country teams (XC team captain), she graduated in 2006 with a degree in architecture; a bachelor's in design. She left with personal bests of 18:00.29 in the 5K and 37:54.64 for 10K. She continues to compete, both in road racing and triathlons, where she has established herself as one of the top competitors in the state.
Dunn succeeds John Boyle, who coached at Stetson for 17 years before retiring this past July. It was John, incidentally, who led to her interest in his former position.
"I saw John at a race this summer. He was talking to my Dad (Dave Dunn, the XC coach at Warner Christian) at a triathlon that I was competing in; my Dad was watching. I applied for the job", said Dunn.
Now she has succeeded Boyle as head coach. Dunn and assistant coach Joe Matuszak (a 2005 Stetson graduate), both talented runners, use their elevated level of fitness to "keep up" with their runners.
"Joe and I split it up and run with different groups. It has helped us to get to know everyone on the team better and also get a run in at the same time", she said.
On their first day of practice--6:30 AM on August 12th--she was encouraged by what she saw.
"I saw a bunch of excited faces. Everyone was enthusiastic. I had talked to a few of them, and it was good to match their faces with their names."
"On the run before the sun" may seem rather obsessive to followers of most other sports, but there's a good reason for it: 60 to 90 minute, non-stop runs are difficult enough in and of themselves, but add the heat and humidity of a typical August or September day, and the resulting "fall off" would be counter-productive to conditioning.
"We practice early-yeah, it was hot-but getting everyone into our routine was the first order of business; getting there on time, stretching, and teaching the basics. It's also important to have everyone in the same place, doing the same workout, at their own pace, and holding each other accountable. We do 'time workouts' (running for a set length of time, rather than strict distance) so that everyone finishes together and gets in what they can", said Dunn.
One of the first decisions, in the team's 'order of business,' was to choose their respective captains.
"The teams voted for captains--Kyle Burton and Kelly Munson-but we also have team leaders. There are definitely some people who are good at encouraging team members, helping out with
Having just completed their first meet at Jacksonville University on September 3rd, Mallory sees great promise in this group.
"I think that we have a solid team on both sides (men and women). As far as the future is concerned, I would like to improve upon conditioning during the (off-season); winter, spring and summer. When I was hired we talked about having practices part-time during the spring. I'm not certain how it will be structured, but it might be done for the betterment of the team."
And her view of this team's future?
"Each scholar-athlete on the team brings a uniqueness to what is becoming a tight-knit group. Motivation and training through cross country, and the spring, will help us grow and reach our goals together. I am just very grateful to be a part of it."