New coach brings new start for XC

By Gabriella Scibetta

The 2014 SIU men and women’s cross country teams face a major change to their program.

Coach Matt Sparks has taken a coaching position at the University of Notre Dame after winning two Missouri Conference Championships in two years while coaching the SIU cross-country team.

Sparks is still new to the Fighting Irish cross country program, and senior runner Michael Clevenger said the team is still getting to know him.


“As of now we’re just trying to get acclimated to one another,” he said. “We’re excited to have him. It should be a great season. Hopefully we’ll surprise a lot of people.”

Former Saluki cross-country runner, David Beauchem was appointed head coach during the summer. One week before the first meet at home, Beauchem had his first meeting with the team.

Beauchem was the head coach at Bradley University from 1994- 2010, then Western Illinois University from 2010-2014. He said he is glad to be back in Carbondale.

“I’m happy to have this opportunity, and it’s my honor to come back,” said Beauchem.

Even though he is new to the Saluki coaching staff, the team, including senior Zach Schrader, knew him from coaching at WIU.

“I really like him, it was a surprise for all of us,” Schrader said. “We all didn’t know [the change] would come so soon. He had a smooth transition, we needed a coach and he smoothly adjusted to the program. We all really like him.”

Senior runner Kelley Gallagher said in an email she is confident in Beaucham, but is happy Sparks is doing more for his career.


“I was sad to see Coach Sparks leave because I built a great relationship with him the past three years, but as a team we all understood his decision and wish him the best at Notre Dame,” Gallagher said. “I am confident in coach Beaucham’s training though. He is a great coach and is very enthusiastic about coaching us and I know he will do a great job.”

Both coaches have similar training plans, which makes it easier for the team to transition between the two.

“Initially I was nervous about the changes Coach Beaucham was going to make but he has done a great job of meeting with us and figuring out the way training works best for each of us,” Gallagher said.

Last year, there were no freshmen on the team. This year, there are 10 freshmen on both the men and women’s teams.

“They bring energy into practice and it’s nice to have new faces this year,” Schrader said. “This is definitely one of the best recruiting classes in the past few years.”

Gallagher said she is confident how the team will perform this season, especially because of returning the entire conference championship team. She said offseason training would be important for the team’s success.

Schrader said he also spent his summer training in Carbondale with other teammates.

“We would run 13-15 miles a day, sometimes multiple times a day, reaching 50-70 miles a week,” Schrader said.

As the defending MVC Champions, SIU will be hosting the next cross-country championship in March.

“There is a lot of people outside of the team that think that we can’t win again without [Sparks], and we want to prove that we can win while having adversity,” Schrader said.

As for Coach Beauchem, winning is not the only goal he wants to reach by the end of the season.

“I want the team to have as much confidence in me as I have in them,” he said.

Gabriella Scibetta can be reached at [email protected] on Twitter @GScibetta_DE or at 536-3311 ext. 269.