Eric Phillips was named head coach of both the men and women’s cross country teams in August.
The previous coach, Jason Hartmann, accepted a position at Central Michigan University.
A Saginaw native, Phillips attended Heritage High School and later competed at Grand Valley State University in cross country and track. His collegiate coaching career started at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota.
After leaving the University of Mary, Phillips went on to serve as the cross country head coach for Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee. Here, he coached one athlete to All-American honors.
Expectations for the forthcoming season are high for Phillips, who aims to continue the rich culture of success and teamwork that has been seen in previous years.
“Our goals are to continue building upon both the recent successes and the deep history of the programs and to show the nation what it means to be a Cardinal,” he said.
The commitment to maintaining the team’s culture is important to Tellis Donajkowski, a senior on the team.
“One of the biggest reasons we’ve had such success over the last four years is largely due to the culture,” he said. “We’ve had excellent leadership on the team, and the expectations for what we want out of every person on the roster is communicated.”
No stranger to the GLIAC, Phillips said he is excited to be back coaching in the conference he formerly competed in.
“As for the GLIAC and Midwest region, I don’t believe there is a tougher conference to be in,” he said. “I’m a very competitive person, so why not take pride in lining up against the best of the best?”
Phillips said he is also happy to be back in the city where he grew up.
“This is home,” he said. “My wife and I were both born and raised here in town, so obviously from a family aspect getting back to Saginaw is unreal.”
Many student-athletes, including junior Maggie Pawelczyk, look forward to the experience Phillips brings to the Cardinal distance squads. She is optimistic that a change in coaches will further the team’s success.
“(Phillips’) training will strengthen our team both on and off the course,” she said. “I believe (Phillips) will help our team gain a lot of strength and surpass new limits.”
Next up for Cardinal distance teams is the Spartan Invitational on Friday, Sept. 13 at Michigan State University. Rounding out the month, both teams are set to compete at the Wayne State Invitational before they prepare for a busy month of October, which includes the GLIAC Championships on Saturday, Oct. 26.