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Varsity girls cross country team welcomes new head coach Emily Fuqua

Coach Emily Fuqua steps up this year as the new head coach of the Girls Cross Country team. Credit: Cate Reames

This fall, the varsity girls cross country team welcomed their new head coach, Emily Fuqua. After working alongside former head coach Amy Eubanks as her assistant and a successful past season, Fuqua was the clear choice for the job.

Fuqua’s cross country journey began during her seventh grade year at Westminster. After quitting club soccer in sixth grade, Fuqua’s parents pushed her to get out of her comfort zone.

“[They] said you have to do another fall sport when you get to seventh grade,” said Fuqua. “I wasn’t going to play volleyball, and I didn’t know how to play softball, so cross country was the only option.”

Although she had never run cross country before, she quickly fell in love. Fuqua was excelling at it, even matching paces with many of the top boys.

“I ended up falling absolutely in love with [cross country],” said Fuqua. “It was just an amazing experience. I was good at running and it just somehow came easily to me.”

After completing the hiring process to become a middle school math teacher, Fuqua knew she had to get involved with the cross country program again.

“I dreamed as a teenager to be able to come back and impact the cross country team, but I truly never thought it’d be possible,” said Fuqua. “Yet, when I became a teacher, I had a way to get involved with the program that deeply impacted my life and made me into the person I am today.” 

Fuqua’s passion for cross country and the? team is evident through her energetic nature. Many girls have mentioned that they enjoy her relatability and sense of humor, aspects of her character that make the team excited for her to be their new leader.

“One of the coolest things about cross country is that freshmen can hangout with seniors. You get to meet everyone,” said Fuqua. “The sister groups were relatively new when I started, but it’s awesome that it’s still around.”

As a former wildcat, Fuqua is easy to talk to for the team. Her past as an athlete and student at Westminster allows for the girls to relate to her on a deeper level, often finding comfort in their relationship with her. 

“Because she was once in our position as a high schooler and cross country runner at Westminster, she understands what we’re going through and knows how we can have both off days and days where no one can concentrate,” said senior captain Ava Ramsey. 

Furthermore, Fuqua spent her summer learning from legendary former head coach Amy Eubanks in an effort to start the season strong.

“I went up for two weeks to visit coach Eubanks,” said Fuqua. “We went through everything I would possibly need to know, such as the details on how to run a cross country meet, how to set up registration for the invitationals, and how to figure out the workouts for practices.”

Despite the large change a new coach brings, the team is adapting well to their new leader. 

“I think it’s been a very smooth transition,” said Ramsey. “Everyone was definitely disappointed when Coach Eubanks stepped down, but Fuqua has filled the role really well and made sure to continue the traditions that we love.”

Not only is Fuqua keeping many popular traditions, but also she’s implementing new ones.

“She’s been adding in new workouts like mall 200s, swim practices, and more morning practices,” said Ramsey. “These changes have made it easier to work around the weather and have made the weeks more entertaining.” 

With the recent heat, many afternoon runs have been moved indoors. The new option for morning workouts have improved the team dynamic as well. 

The morning runs allow us to run in cooler weather and then go and get ready for school as a team,” said Ramsey. “My favorite part is the music in the locker room afterwards.”

Fuqua’s compassionate leadership also allows for both team growth and fun.

“I think she is a very understanding leader who makes it a priority to both push the team to become faster, but also provide us with memorable and fun practices,” said Ramsey.  “She has an appreciable balance of strictness and fun keeping the team disciplined while making the hard work rewarding.”

With a new coach comes new goals. Fuqua’s main focus is making this season enjoyable for everyone.

“My goal for the season is honestly to have fun,” said Fuqua. “There’s always the talk of a state championship, but my goal this year is to make sure everyone feels like they belong on the team. I want to ensure that everyone is doing their best everyday at practice and in the meets. If we win a state championship, that’s a bonus, but it’s not the only goal this year.”

As the team gears up for the Asics meet on Sept. 30, the girls feel confident and excited for the upcoming season under their energetic and fun-loving new head coach. 

Edited by Helen Slawson

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