Kishwaukee College is adding men’s and women’s cross country to its athletic offerings for fall 2018. Scott Peterson, left, has been named as head coach of the teams and Missy Gillis is the assistant coach. (Photo contributed)
MALTA – Kishwaukee College is adding men’s and women’s cross country to its Athletic department beginning in fall 2018. The new teams join the addition of women’s soccer and re-launch of men’s soccer in fall 2018 to bring the Athletic offerings to nine. Joining the college staff as coaches for the cross country teams are Scott Peterson, head coach, and Missy Gillis, assistant coach.
Scott Peterson currently coaches the cross country team at Evans Junior High School in Bloomington and has previously coached at Parkside Junior High School (also located in Bloomington), and East Peoria High School. Locally, he coached Sycamore High School’s cross country team in 2008-2011 and is a graduate of Kaneland High School. While competing in cross country at Kaneland, Peterson was a member of the Knights’ team that qualified for State for three consecutive years, finishing 9th twice and 5th once at the state meet.
Missy Gillis is currently the director of student outreach and educational partnerships at Kishwaukee College. Gillis began running track when she was in 4th grade and continued through her time at Lourdes High School in Chicago. As an undergraduate at Elmhurst College, she started to run cross country as well as track and was the captain of the team during her junior and senior years. She set school records at Elmhurst in the 1500, 3000, 5000, and 10000 meter races, and cites the day she broke five minutes for her time in the 1500 as one of the most memorable days in her competitive running career. Currently, she has formed the DeKalb County Gazelles, a running club, and cheers on her daughter who competes in cross country in middle school.
Peterson stated, “This area has an excellent running community and the local high schools all have good teams. This means we can build a good program from the start that will continue to grow.” Gillis added, “We already have 10 runners – five women and five men – who have joined the team and they represent a nice cross section of the local high schools. Ideally, we want to have 10 runners on both the men’s and women’s teams.”
Peterson and Gillis share a philosophy on coaching that is relatively simple: every member of the team is equally important and all are coached the same. Peterson explained, “People often think of running as a solitary sport, but cross country is a team sport. The top five finishers receive points. The team practices running in small groups to learn to finish within a minute of each other to earn points. Building a team that has positive camaraderie is really important.”
The team will run practices on Kish’s 120-acre campus, which has served in the past as a cross country course, and may add in other local practice courses in the area. Because most meets will run on relatively flat courses in the area, the team will practice on the type of surfaces they will encounter at meets.
Gillis noted that running cross country is very different from track but most runners can learn to run on non-paved surfaces that make up the cross country course. “I think it is also different from a fan’s perspective, too, and that also makes it a different experience for the runner. Running on a track means the fans can see the runner for the entire race. In cross country, the fans are stationed along the course. A runner coming out of a wooded area where there were no spectators will suddenly be greeted by cheering. It is very cool.”