New cross country coach brings success in his first season

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After working as a coach at places like Maryville University, new head cross country and track and field coach Chris Sandefur has come to Webster University. 

For over 12 years, new head cross country and track and field coach Chris Sandefur, has been running. From place to place, Sandefur first started out as the head coach at the University of Louisiana Monroe, then went on to coach at Central Methodist University, Johnson and Wales University and Maryville University. Twelve years later, Sandefur ended up finding a home at Webster University.

“I love St. Louis. I am from the area and my wife and I don’t plan on leaving St. Louis at all. I also prefer to coach at the division three level,” Sandefur said.

Sandefur has big goals and plans for Webster’s cross country and track team. The ultimate goal is to build a top four national-level program.

“My goal is to teach a team concept and to have everyone working together towards one thing,” Sandefur said. “I preach to [my runners] that they need to work towards being successful as a group and not just individually.”

Cross country runner Nathan Freyling has started to see some of these changes happen with the new coaching staff.

“The men’s and women’s teams are a lot closer than usual,” Freyling said. “Our teams are usually close every year, but I think the new coaching helped us grow even closer together.”

Freyling was a bit skeptical of the change in the coaching staff due to the difference in coaching styles between Dan Graber, the previous cross country and track coach, and Sandefur. After a couple weeks of practice, however, Freyling put his trust in Sandefur.

Head coach Chris Sandefur (right) and assistant coach Josh Stewart (left) took home SLIAC Coach of the Year honors. Photo contributed by Webster Athletics.

Sandefur has a history of setting records at schools under his coaching tactics.

“His knowledge with the sport alone is enough to bring more success to the program. With the help from [Sandefur], I truly believe this team will continue to run faster and faster every meet and year to come,” Freyling said.

However, not everyone on the team could adjust to the new coaching style.  Micah Barnes, a track runner who quit cross country this year, said she struggled a bit with the big change. Barnes is also a staff writer for The Journal.

“I know that Coach Sandefur is a very qualified coach and knows what he is doing, but his coaching style is very different from what we had in the past, which is perfectly fine,” Barnes said. “It was a bit more strict than what I was used to, and I felt worn down physically, as well as emotionally, by the sport.”

Barnes said she was very close with the past coaching staff and had thought about quitting before. With all the new adjustments, she took it as a sign to quit the team. Barnes does not fault Sandefur for her decision.

When it all comes down to it, Sandefur said he hopes to make his runners believe they are great athletes. Sandefur was awarded the SLIAC Women’s Cross Country Coach of the year after the team took first in the conference championship.

“The difference I see [between the D1 and D3 level] is that kids are not being taught that it’s not possible to be great here. I think a lot of individuals don’t have that mindset coming in,” Sandefur said. “It doesn’t matter what level you are at; it just depends how much you are willing to commit to being great.”

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Kelly Bowen
Staff Writer | + posts

I am a journalism major. I play on the women’s soccer team at Webster. I enjoy coffee, Mexican food and watching The Real Housewives of Orange County with my sister.