When West Deptford High School (WDHS) cross-country runners kick off their season this year, they will be doing it without their coach of the last seven years.
Mark Drummond, who teaches marketing and business education at the high school, has accepted a position as the new cross-country, indoor and outdoor track coach at Rutgers University-Camden.
Drummond, who has also previously led the Haddon Heights girls cross-country runners to a Colonial Conference title, state relay title and state team championship, took the West Deptford boys cross-country team to three state championship meets in the seven years he’s worked with the program.
Drummond said got the invite to coach the Scarlet Raptors from Tom Thomasson, the Associate Director of Athletics and Recreational Services at Rutgers, with whom he’d worked on a series of cross-country races through the West Deptford parks system.
“They expressed their interest and what they wanted to do with the program and what direction they wanted to take it in,” Drummond said, “which kind of coincided with what they want to do in West Deptford and trying to build it overall.
“Once that happened, unfortunately, we were both on a short timeframe because of them having their season come up and me having my season starting too,” he said.
“It really was a short window of time.”
Rutgers-Camden has had “some individual success stories,” Drummond said—including national javelin champion Tim VanLiew of Deptford—and the school wants to build on its successes in other sports like men’s soccer and softball “to have an overall program that’s strong and attractive to collegiate athletes.”
But Drummond thinks it will be some time before his cross-country program will produce significant results.
For starters, he said, the WDHS cross-country team this fall will have more than twice as many runners as his squad at Rutgers—numbers that he expects will improve.
“At this point this year, coming in so late, it’s just, let’s get this thing turned around and let’s get the standards set and get this thing headed in the right direction,” he said.
Like any new coach, Drummond expects to implement some changes, but he will have a couple of West Deptford alumni on the squad to help ease the transition: hurdler Matt Curtis and cross-country and distance runners Milly Kipp and Leo Impagliazzo.
“I’m fortunate that all the returners are all on board and have accepted the things I’ve instituted,” Drummond says of his new practice routines.
“What we do now is 100 percent different from what we did before.”
Drummond will also have to make some adjustments as a coach, he said—not seeing every runner every day is something of a shock, he said—but his principal philosophy will remain the same.
“I want to make sure that everybody feels that they have a role and they are as important as the first guy on the team,” Drummond said.
“If the first guy doesn’t have anybody pushing them, how are they going to get better? Everybody can be a contributor even if they never win a race.”
Perhaps toughest of all will be leaving behind the boys program that he’s spent the last seven years building at West Deptford, he said.
Drummond is flipping the keys over to the capable Bob Cooper, who will coach both the boys and girls squads at West Deptford this year.
Although he’s sad to leave his official duties with the team, Drummond said the chance to coach at the collegiate level was “one of those opportunities that I didn’t think that I could turn down because I don’t know when it will come up again.”
“The expectations [at West Deptford] this year were to compete for the conference title and to compete for a state title as a team,” Drummond said. “That was tough to leave.
“Regardless of me being there or not being there, they’ve done all this work to get to this point, and that won’t make any difference in how they will perform this year,” he said.