Men’s cross country head coach Justin Wood steps down on first day of fall practice

The student-athletes were given “no context” for Wood’s departure, according to the men's cross country team captain.

by Andrew Sasser and Emily Lu | 9/1/22 3:00am

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Source: Courtesy of Liam Jamieson

Men’s cross country coach Justin Wood stepped down from his role as head coach on Monday, Aug. 22, the first day of the team’s preseason training. According to men’s cross country captain Eric Gibson ’23, athletics director Mike Harrity informed the team of Wood’s departure in a Zoom call on Monday after the student-athletes arrived on campus for practice. 

Gibson said that the timing of Wood’s resignation was confusing for the team, and Harrity provided “no context” as to why Wood left the program. 

“We don’t know what happened behind the scenes, but I don’t know how this process resulted in the team finding out about [our coach’s departure] on the first day of practice,” Gibson said. 

Wood joined the Big Green in 2020 and did “wonders” for the program, Gibson said. 

“He was someone we loved not only as a coach and mentor, but as a man,” Gibson said. “He really pushed all of us to be the best men we could be.”

There will be a national search for a new head coach, and head women’s cross country coach Kendra Foley will serve as the interim men’s cross country coach until the role is filled, according to a statement from Harrity and Porscha Dobson, director of track and field and cross country. 

Barry Harwick ’77, former director of the track and field and cross country programs who coached at Dartmouth for 28 years, said the timing of Wood’s departure was “unfortunate,” as student-athletes — including ’26s recruited by Wood — were just coming to campus for training. Harwick added that recruiting for the incoming classes of cross country athletes, which occurs mostly in the fall, may pose a challenge, though noted that there are still four full-time coaches on the track and cross country staff. 

“Coaching changes happen, and I think the most important thing is being positive going forward there,” Harwick said. “There's a lot of people working and making sure that things will go well for the team this fall.”

Friends of Dartmouth Track & Field and Cross Country co-chair Dana Giordano ’16 said that while there are “outstanding questions” about how the team was left without a permanent head coach entering the fall, the alumni group is focused on advocating for current student-athletes. 

“What we're trying to do right now is first and foremost support student-athletes,” Giordano said. “We want to ensure that they have all the resources possible and all the support they need for a successful fall season.”

Giordano said that the alumni group is also in communication with Dobson to ensure that student-athletes and alumni are represented in the search for a new head coach.

According to an email written by Dobson to the Friends of Dartmouth Track & Field and Cross Country obtained by The Dartmouth, the search process will be “confidential.” Dobson wrote that the group should “ignore everything you read or hear that does not come directly from” the athletics department administration. 

Gibson said that he trusts that the coaching staff will find an ideal candidate to serve as the team’s new head coach. He added that while it has been a “tricky week” for the team, they are focused on their upcoming season. 

“We’ve been a really resilient group,” Gibson said. “Nothing changes about the season; we still have our races and our big goals.”

Justin Wood declined to comment. 

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