Cross-country key to developing TCC athletics

Gary Droze, who will coach the women's cross country team at TCC, also is an avid runner on the regional circuit. Photo courtesy Herb Wills

Gary Droze, who will coach the women’s cross country team at TCC, also is an avid runner on the regional circuit.
Photo courtesy Herb Wills




By Robyn Murrell
Outlook writer

Tallahassee Community College athletic program is expanding this fall with the addition of women’s cross- country, which director of athletics Rob Chaney calls a pivotal piece to build a year-round athletic program.

Cross-country gives TCC five teams. Women’s cross-country is an addition that Chaney said should help the school maintain gender equality in accordance with Title IX requirements. A men’s cross country team may be added in the near future, Chaney said.

“I want to see how participation looks this year with cross country and how strong of a position it puts us in,” said Chaney. “If I see that we’re in a really good position we might be able to come back as early as next fall with a men’s cross country team.”

The new team will compete as a Division I program in the National Junior College Athletic Association. TCC will not offer scholarships in the first year of the program.

While TCC is getting out of the chutes late in terms of recruiting, Chaney believes that having veteran Tallahassee runner Gary Droze as head coach could help attract some top-fight athletes for a 12-runner team.

Droze has coached Maclay High School’s track team for at least two decades. He’s led the Marauders’ boys and girls track teams to 20 Florida High School Athletic Association state championships.
He didn’t waste any time recruiting for his new team.

“I put out some announcements on some state-wide running websites and I’ve gotten some good responses there,” said Droze. “Just in the first week after it was announced I’ve had seven young women contact me. I’d say we’re probably a little ahead of schedule for what I expected.”

Droze, an advocate for academics first, has impressed Chaney with his approach.

“Like my other coaches he’ll invest himself in those young ladies not just for the athletic participation, but to promote the importance of being a student first and an athlete second,” said Chaney. “I know it sounds cliché but we really do, we really do promote that.”

While the Eagles mainstream sports such as baseball and basketball have attracted strong followings, Chaney expects cross-country to do the same.

“I think it’s good whenever you can bring in a new sport that the student body can rally around,” said Phillipe Lilavois, an assistant coach with the men’s basketball team. “When you have a lot of successful student athletes, I think it helps the image of a community college.”