New coaches at Lehighton, Weatherly
bob ford/times news First-year Lehighton cross country head coach Erica Pagotto talks to team members before a recent practice.
There will be a fresh look this season for two cross country programs, as Erica Pagotto takes over at Lehighton and Jennifer Cronin takes the reins at Weatherly.
Both coaches were assistants for their respective programs a year ago and bring that experience plus a wealth of knowledge from a number of years around the sport to their new positions.
"It has definitely been a big change taking over as the coach this year," said Pagotto, an accomplished runner in her own right. "There's more responsibility and obviously more to manage on a daily basis.
"But I'm just going to lean on my experience. I can connect and relate (to them) because I am a runner."
That familiarity will be key for both coaches, who will be working with young squads that are trying to build a solid foundation for the future.
"Since 13 of our 18 runners are new to the program, we will start with the running basics and build on that throughout the season," said Pagotto. "If we can do that, I think it will be a successful year."
The same goes for a very raw Weatherly group that features no seniors on the boys' or girls' teams.
"I want them to improve over last season and be competitive this year," said Cronin. "There's no reason we can't compete with other teams in the league.
"They have the work ethic and desire to contend with other schools that have similar numbers."
Weatherly also has a strong feeder system that Cronin hopes will produce even more talent in the next few years.
"We have a lot of potential in our junior high program," said Cronin. "My goal is to develop runners that will be able to contribute to our varsity team, which is something that is crucial moving forward."
Both coaches are aware that harnessing the young talent they have now will pay dividends in the future, which looks bright for both programs.
"The dedication I have seen from this group already has been amazing," said Pagotto. "They worked together during the offseason and it really shows.
"They support and encourage each other during every workout. It's a very close, tight-knit group that wants to do well as a team. I'm very impressed with what I've seen so far."
While trying to field a contending team, Cronin is also aiming to create an atmosphere that's supportive while also encouraging her young group.
"Obviously, I want them to run personal bests and improve from last year," Cronin said. "But I also want them to believe in themselves and have more self-confidence.
"I can see a difference in them already; they've improved so much just in this early part of the season. "
With an influx of talent and positive attitudes permeating throughout both programs, Cronin and Pagotto are well on their way to enjoying long tenures in their new positions.