Nome-Beltz XC team starts season with new coach
Ryan Fox is the new head coach of the Nome-Beltz middle and high school cross country teams.
Fox, who teaches social studies at Beltz, inherited the role from Jeff Collins who coached for many years and became a mentor to Fox when he moved to Nome a few years ago. Last fall Collins approached Fox about taking over the head coaching position, and after interviewing with the school, he got the gig.
Though new to coaching, this is by no means Fox’s first lap around the track. He started running in middle school, having his parents drive him to 5k races. In high school he got more serious, running cross country and track and he became captain of the cross country team his senior year. Fox went on to run division one cross country at his college, University of Albany.
After college, Fox rode his bike across the Lower 48 “just scoping out cool places to live,” he said. After finding most places to be similar he flew back to the East Coast to apply to jobs in Alaska. When he got the job in Nome he took the trip again, biking from New York to Seattle and flying to Nome with everything he had on him. Clearly, he’s no stranger to a cross country challenge. But when it comes to methods of movement, running is his first love.
“Running was the catalyst for a lot of my confidence in high school, it gave me direction and something to look forward to every day,” said Fox, “I want the kids to stick with it and develop good routines.”
Thirty-five kids have signed up for the team which began practicing in July. Fox said anywhere between 25 to 30 runners show up for each practice.
“I’m really impressed with the turnout, especially since it’s the summer,” said Fox
The Nome-Beltz cross country team meets five days a week for one and a half hours. Practice starts with the team stretching together then breaks off into groups depending on run lengths.
Cross country is unique from other district sports, it’s the only one where middle and highschoolers have the same season and joint team. Coaching both teams can be chaotic, luckily Fox has three captains from the high school team who can lead groups in stretches and different runs depending on their abilities.
Corey Erikson is also the assistant coach — and has been for years —with kids of his own on the team and a knowledge of the sport, making him a great asset to Fox.
This weekend Fox is flying with 10 runners to Anchorage where they’ll go on to compete in a race in Soldotna. Another group from the team will be going this weekend to Teller to run in the Nasqaghmii Marathon.
Fox spoke enthusiastically to the Nugget about his hopes for the team this year. He said this group of kids has been really great about coming to practice and working hard.
“I think both my boys and girls teams are capable of winning the conference championship in Bethel,” said Fox.
While winning the region would be cool, Fox stressed that he really cares about the kids sticking with cross country through the whole season and personally improving.
Fox encourages kids to still come out to practices even though the season has already started, formal practices will go until the first week of October.
Fox himself is still an avid runner and can be seen running miles around Nome.
In February he plans travel the Iditarod Trail Invitational 350, an ultra-marathon along the Iditarod trail from Knik to McGrath.