First-year head coach Jason Vigilante has led the men’s and women’s cross country teams into automatic berths into the NCAA Championships on Monday, Nov. 24, for the first time in program history. Vigilante earned ACC Coach of the Year honors after leading the men’s squad to a second-consecutive ACC Championship and followed up that performance leading the women to the Southeast Region title.
Question: This is the first time that both the men’s and women’s squads have automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships in the same season. What does it mean for the program to set the bar so high in just your first season with the team?
Vigilante: The expectation has been established. We aspire to be one of the best programs year to year consequently winning the regional is just what we aim to do every season.Question: Perhaps the most impressive performance so far this season has been the women winning the Southeast Regional title. What was your game plan going into the meet for the women?
Vigilante: Going into Saturday's race, we knew we had a very good team and if each woman contributed just one-seventh, our cumulative effort would add up to one very solid team. Overall, we were excellent in executing our race plan and when we left the cross country course we were all quite pleased with the day.Question: How did they prepare for the championships?
Vigilante: We planned for the course to be fast and our competition to challenge us. No doubt we were ready.Question: The men, however, went into the meet as the favorites, but came out one point shy of winning it. What was your reaction to the final results?
Vigilante: Yes we came within a point of winning, but the individual performances were nearly excellent. Emil Heineking and Ryan Foster were third and fourth behind two very good runners, our next two guys ran the first 10k of their lives so well and our fifth guy, Andrew Jesien, had a tremendous comeback from a disappointing ACC meet. Losing by just a point definitely has a silver lining. We are a good team and I'm very excited to coach these guys to the next level.Question: Looking ahead for the men, how do you expect them to bounce back for the national meet? Five of the seven competitors from a year ago are returning to the championships. Do you think experience will help carry them through this final meet?
Vigilante: Absolutely our experience at the NCAA meet is a benefit. Simply running against the best in the country is difficult enough, add the enormous crowd, the pressure of this being NCAAs, 10,000 meters and you need that savvy of previous experience. I am not going to say we need to bounce back. We just need to do what we are able for 30 minutes on Monday. Honestly, it's that simple.Question: What about for the women? There are only two women with NCAA experience. What are your expectations for them at nationals?
Vigilante: Our ladies will do what we have up to this point. Smile and continue to do a super job.Question: With a little less than a week to prepare for the meet, what will the team do between now and then to make sure they are hitting their best times come November 24?
Vigilante: During this week you can only have a good spirit, recover and look forward to the challenge you have prepared so many months for. What an opportunity for everyone competing.Question: This is your first season coaching women. What are you finding are some of the key differences between coaching men and women?
Vigilante: There is certainly a difference between coaching the men and the women. I have always found the men are pretty simple creatures and just want to be told what direction we are going. However, the women have a greater sense of appreciation for the details. I really have enjoyed this fall, especially seeing the women discover satisfaction in being part of something bigger than themselves. We as a program are all having a whole lot of fun.