The men’s and women’s cross country teams are welcoming a new coach, John Hayman, for the 2019-2020 school year.
“Our team now runs with a sense of passion and grit like I’ve never seen before during my time at Mercer,” junior runner Anna Grzeszczak said. “Just one big dorky family working together to better one another every day and prepare for the accomplishment of big-time championship season goals.”
Coach Hayman grew up a swimmer, and his dad is the head swim coach at the University of Delaware. However, he found a passion for running in high school.
“I didn’t do cross country till my senior year of high school, and from then on out that was going to be the life,” Hayman said. “I kind of always had a passion for caching …when I fell for the sport that’s what made me pursue this passion.”
Hayman was named the NJCAA Atlantic and Region X Coach of the Year in 2017 and 2018 and previously worked at Louisburg College, according to Mercer Athletics. Following the start of preseason practices, Hayman is optimistic for this season.
“I have been extremely impressed by the student’s athletes we have here,” Hayman said. “Everyone here was so open-armed.”
A normal week for the cross-country team varies in mileage for each athlete. Sophomore runner Rob Zell runs around 70 miles a week and ran under the previous coach from last season.
“There is a little bit of forgiveness, like if you have a bad workout, he is not on top of you … but he also has a high standard,” Zell said. “We respect him so much more and we want to perform for him because we like him so much.”
The men’s cross-country team placed sixth out of 15 against schools such as Emory and Auburn during their first meet of the season. At the Struts Cross Country Season Opener, the women’s placed fifth out of 15.
“It was an absolutely incredible feeling to stand on the starting line, be in full uniform, and surrounded by my amazing teammates,” Grzeszczak said.
With four meets left in the season for men and women, Hayman is optimistic about the results.
“It’s a lot about the satisfaction and the desire to compete,” Hayman said. “It’s just about being positive … everyday atmosphere has to be that we are ready to work.”