For cross-country coach Nick Cooper, another top honor and successful season

This year coach Nick Cooper led the men’s cross country team to the Great Northeast Conference Championship (GNAC) and he was awarded GNAC Coach of the Year honors two years in a row.

“Coach Cooper is an excellent cross country coach, understands how to prepare his athletes for competition,” said Anthony Mariano, Norwich University’s Athletic Director. “He has the respect of not only his athletes but all of the coaches at Norwich.”

But his accomplishments and recognition this year were almost not to be.

After five years of coaching at Norwich, Coach Cooper had decided last summer “to leave and take another position” to further his law career, said Mariano. It was not a choice he made easily.

“It is extremely difficult deciding to leave a team,” said Cooper, who coaches both the men and women’s cross-country runners. “My job is easy — it’s our runners who do all the work. I just get them to the race once we get there they know what they need to do.”

“My team means a lot to me,” added Cooper. “I think about them constantly and wake up at night thinking of ways I could do things better and how I could make our team better. If you asked my wife she would tell you the team and the runners are all I talk about.”

Mariano explained how Cooper left and then returned to fill a big hole in the athletic coaching staff. “He took a new position and apparently things changed at his new law firm and he made the decision to leave and come back to Norwich,” said Mariano.

The athletic director and his colleagues, “were in the process of hiring his replacement when he told us he was not happy at his new position and asked if he could come back to Norwich and coach,” said Mariano.

“We gladly took him back.”

There is nothing better than making a goal to win the conference championships and then seeing it becoming a reality. And that is what happened this year. The men “were second place last year losing by just one point. So the guys really wanted to come back this year and reclaim the championship,” said Coach Cooper. “In cross country, only ten individuals earn all-conference honors and this year seven of the ten were Norwich guys.”

Cooper’s recruiting efforts in the past few years have been key. “Freshmen Korey Leonard placed first and earned runner of the year and rookie of the year,” said Cooper. “We return all of our runners next year and we are aiming to be ranked in the top ten in New England.”

Cooper’s decision to come back and coach at Norwich took a whole lot of stress off of Mariano and the athletic staff on looking for a replacement.

“He is an excellent cross country coach, understands how to prepare his athletes for competition and has the respect of not only his athletes but all of the coaches at Norwich,” said Mariano. “We are hoping that coach Cooper will continue for many years here at Norwich as he is a terrific addition to our athletic staff.”

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