CUMBERLAND, Md. – Cross country enthusiasts can follow their love for the sport to Allegany College of Maryland, which is forming men’s and women’s teams for its inaugural season this fall. An information session is scheduled Thursday, June 2.
ACM will compete in the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference, where Anne Arundel, Hagerstown and Howard community colleges field strong teams.
Coaching both men’s and women’s teams is Justin Taylor, a three-time high school state champion who competed at Division I Lehigh University, where he earned an engineering degree on an athletic scholarship.
Taylor is fostering a new generation of local competitors with the Antelope Youth Running Club, which he launched in fall 2014 with three runners, two of whom are his own children.
By this past spring, the club counted 101 runners in grades K-8 practicing twice a week and competing in central Maryland meets every Sunday.
Allegany County, said Taylor, has “historically been a strong running community.” The youth club, he added, is filling an important need and will serve as a pipeline for area high school teams.
Taylor is hoping that his future ACM teams provide area high school runners an avenue to continue in the sport as they further their education at the community college.
ACM’s 300-acre campus, with its mile-long dirt track, trails through nearby woods and vast expanses of lawn, is well suited for cross country competitions.
Allegany High annually hosts the Progressive Physical Therapy Invitational, which sees more than 30 high school cross county teams competing at ACM every fall.
Taylor, who graduated from Allegany in 1997, sees the campus as ideal for hosting collegiate cross country meets not only in the regular season but also championship meets in the post season.
While cross country is an individual sport, Taylor said it is also a team event. Seven-member squads compete and the top five scores count. To provide sufficient depth, he is hoping to have a dozen or more runners on the roster of each team.
Above all, he wants runners who will emphasize their education. “The grades come first,” Taylor said. “They are students first before they are athletes.”
Cross country has the enthusiastic endorsement of ACM’s athletic director, Steve Bazarnic.
“We’re excited about the program and we are excited about the guy who will be coaching it,” said Bazarnic. “He’s going to do a great job.”
The information session for ACM cross country starts at 7 p.m. June 2. It will take place at the bleachers beside the all-weather quarter-mile track, near the Physical Education Building.
For more information call the P.E. Department at 301-784-5265. Taylor can be contacted directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.