Having guided two different programs in two different sports at two different high schools to their first-ever state titles, Ed Lucas is more than a cross country/track and field coach, he’s an architect, a builder of championship teams.
His latest construction project may be his toughest yet, although he is certainly up for the challenge.
Lucas, who led the Oxford High School girls cross country team to the 2011 Class SS state championship and the Masuk High School boys outdoor track and field team to the 2017 Class MM state crown, has been hired to coach the brand-new men’s and women’s cross country teams at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.
“When I started in Oxford, it was a new program, too, so I’m kind of familiar with starting from scratch,” Lucas said in a phone interview Friday. “The difference now is that I’m not going to see the kids every day like when they were in school, I’m going to have to go out and find them and convince them to come to WestConn.”
This first season will present Lucas with a unique challenge. The teams will start competing this fall, which gives him only the summer to stock the inaugural men’s and women’s rosters with runners. By this time of year, most college-bound high school seniors have already picked their schools, so Lucas will have to drum up interest among Western’s current student body.
After this first year, however, he’ll have the benefit of the year-round recruiting cycle, along with a wealth of cross country talent being cultivated at high schools located only a short car ride away from campus.
“It’s been exciting, and a little overwhelming at times,” he said.
There are, however, plenty of reasons to be encouraged.
“Being a brand-new program, the school seems to want to put a lot of money into it and build a home course,” he said.
The Colonials will compete in the Little East Conference for cross country, like they do in most other sports. Other LEC teams fielding men’s and women’s cross country teams are Eastern Connecticut, Plymouth State, Rhode Island College, UMass Boston, UMass Dartmouth, Keene State and Southern Maine. Southern Maine won its second consecutive LEC men’s title last fall, while Eastern Connecticut won its first LEC women’s crown.
A 1989 graduate of Shelton High School, Lucas went on to serve as a captain on the cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field at Central Connecticut State University. His first head coaching job was at his alma mater, Shelton High, before he moved on to coach the teams at Oxford and Masuk high schools.
His job at Western presents him with another clean slate, another opportunity to work his magic, this time on an even bigger stage. Needless to say, he’s optimistic.
“There’s nowhere to go but up,” he said with a laugh.
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