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River Falls alumnus hired as cross-country head coach

September 18, 2019

As the new head coach of the men’s and women’s cross-country team, and assistant coach for track and field, Jason Phillippi is trying to rebuild the program that brought him happiness during his time as an undergraduate at UW-River Falls.

Running has been a passion for Phillippi throughout his life. Growing up in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, he competed in track and field in high school all four years. Following graduation, Phillippi toured several schools, all of which he was planning to participate in track and field and cross-country. However, one school stood out to him.

“When I toured here, I knew I would come in and make an impact right away,” Phillippi said. “I set goals of wanting to be an All-American, wanting to set school records, and I did those things.”

During his time at UWRF, Phillippi became one of the most prolific runners that this institution has ever seen. From 2004-2008, he set four schools records, three of which have since been broken. The only remaining record Phillippi holds is in the 1,000-meter event; a record that he set during his senior season of 2008.

The success that Phillippi and his teammates had during his time at UWRF affected new runners who came to this campus, along with the numbers and times that they were able to post while here.

“It’s been cool to see the trickle-down effect that it’s had,” Phillippi said. “We’ve had studs come in and produce and run fast. I want to bring that back and showcase the success that we’ve had over the last ten years.”

According to the UWRF sports website, 15 of the top 28 indoor track records have been set in the last 10 years. Phillippi wants to continue the trend of breaking school records and improving personal running times in his time as the new head coach of the cross-country team.

To achieve his goal of making his athletes the best runners that they can be, he first has to rebuild a cross-country program that has been struggling over the past couple of seasons. At one time, there were approximately 40 cross-country runners for the combined men’s and women’s team. However, last year that number was essentially cut in half, with the total amount of runners being 21.

Phillippi has an eye for recruiting and for great runners, in part because of his experience working with runners, students, and anybody who took an interest in getting better.

After graduating from college, Phillippi spent time working at five different schools throughout the state of Minnesota coaching and working with runners on improving their craft. Following that experience, he spent five years coaching adults on their running.

His experience working with a variety of people helped him develop a philosophy of running that he plans to implement in his time coaching at UWRF.

“I want to focus on individualized training and building culture. Not every kid can show up and do mile repeats. Some are going to need longer work, some are going to get burnt out or injured, so you have to train everyone slightly different,” Phillippi said.

Coaching at a college level will always come down to wins and losses, results in races, and overall success of the program in the time that the coach is here. However, Phillippi wants his runners to learn more than just how to train and win at a collegiate level.

“I want kids to set themselves up to be a lifelong runner if that’s the path they choose.” Phillippi continued, “Running doesn’t end when they graduate like a lot of sports, there are so many opportunities to run road races, train for marathons, there are running clubs, there is so much to do and ways to challenge and push themselves. All of these habits we develop as runners can also transfer into their personal life.”

The next meet for the men’s and women’s cross-country team is at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, MN, on Sept. 28. Events for the day are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m.