Date Published

Sunday, January 1, 2012

CHICKASHA – USAO will be adding to its six-sport base in fall of 2012 when it welcomes back cross country after 16 years, giving students a new opportunity to excel.

USAO had several prospective students in the last year ask about a cross country team, which began the discussion, said Dr. Dexter Marble, vice president for academic affairs.

“We thought it would be important to serve prospective students,” Marble said. “The second reason is we felt like we had the necessary resources. It wouldn’t require any special resources.”

Athletic Director Brisco McPherson said it just turned out to be a good fit for the university.

Shortly after the decision was made, McPherson hired assistant women’s basketball coach Leandra Johnson to head the program.

“Basically, what I’m doing this year is recruiting to build the team,” Johnson said. “Cross country is going to give me even more insight on recruiting for basketball as well.”

Johnson is seeking advice from other coaches on how to effectively recruit and develop the sport and is already traveling to competitions across the state.

She said her goal is to have a team of 10 male and 10 female athletes.

Because it is such a self motivated sport, Johnson said she is focusing on those runners with good character and a strong work ethic as her priorities in new recruits.

Monica Treviño, vice president for enrollment management, said that the fact that it is a self motivated sport is another major reason USAO decided to add the program.

“Cross country typically attracts a very high-caliber student, which is something USAO looks for already,” Treviño said.

The final reason to add the sport, McPherson said, was because it adds enrollment.

“A lot of schools are going to enrollment-driven athletics,” he said. “I think anytime you add sports, you add enrollment. The other thing is a lot of other kids come because of those athletes.”

Marble said a cross country team will add to the interdisciplinary concept around which USAO is based.

“It gives another avenue for expression for USAO students,” he said.

Ten other schools in the Sooner Athletic Conference currently have cross country.

The university had considered volleyball instead, but McPherson said the cost would be significantly more because it would most likely consist of building a new gymnasium.

USAO originally had a cross country program for two seasons in the mid-1990s. It was coached by Harly Day, who was the assistant director of student services for 15 years. Day said USAO decided to add the program after cutting out golf.

Cross country at USAO will begin in the fall of 2012.


Published: Oct. 12, 2011