Penn College Excels in Cross Country Under Paulhamus
Although he ran on both the cross country and track teams while a student at Williamsport Area High School in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mike Paulhamus was very "green" during his first season as Pennsylvania College of Technology cross country coach.
"I wasn't sure (what to expect) when I came in. I got hired the day that practice started, and had a lot of freshmen. I didn't know anything about college cross country at all. Nothing," Paulhamus said.
So, during that fall 2000 season, Paulhamus used some of the knowledge he had acquired as track coach at South Williamsport Area High School, and picked the brain of previous Penn College coach Denny Dunkleberger, to find the direction he needed to go.
Paulhamus was a quick learner.
In 2001, both his men's and women's teams won conference championships. Since then, his men finished second in the conference in 2002, only because of a tie-breaker after finishing tied with Penn State Berks, and took crowns each of the last four seasons. Paulhamus' women's team also won a conference title in 2004.
Overall, his men's teams have gone 161-118-2, including 116-6 in conference meets, and his women's teams 39-17, 37-16 in conference meets. His men are unbeaten in conference meets since 2003, with an 85-0 record through last Saturday's meet.
Numerous Penn College runners have found individual success, too. For the men, Scott Morgan was a conference champ in 2001, William Dillingham in 2002, Paul Merces in 2003, Tom Lambert in 2005 and Greg Kammerle last season. For the women, Christine Seward was a conference titlist in 2001.
It's obvious that most of the success has come from the men, but that mainly is because not as many women go out for the sport.
"I can never, ever get enough women out to participate. My first championship, in 2001, I was able to do it with three girls because the league had a policy that you only needed four girls to participate, three for a team and a fourth for a full team, so we used a 'ghost' runner," Paulhamus explained. In 2004, he said, there were six women on the squad, which made it easier.
Reflecting on the early success, Paulhamus said, "the guys were sophomores (in 2001). We had a year together. We learned the way our college league ran and trained accordingly. It was a pretty happy moment when we went to Penn State and won the championship. We both learned together. We built a pretty good working program that I still use today. They helped me build a base and formula that I still use today.
That "formula," he said, is a weekday training schedule that includes two days of several 800-meter workouts, two days of distance running and Fridays "off" to allow his athletes an easy run on their own. Meets are held most Saturdays, from early September through late October.
It continues to pay dividends today.
In three Penn State University Athletic Conference matches this season, the Wildcat men finished first in all three multi-team outings and the women first twice and third once.
Kammerle, a sophomore from Willow Grove, again leads the men this year, and freshman Tamara Pavlov of Lewisburg leads the women. Paulhamus thinks both teams are capable of taking conference championships this year.
Lambert went undefeated in conference matches throughout his career and Kammerle is on the same track.
Over the years, Paulhamus and college athletic director Mike Stanzione have worked to build the strength of the teams' schedules, adding NCAA Division III teams.
"When we first started, we only did league meets. And I asked him (Stanzione) if we could branch out. I thought (with tougher competition) we could get better quality kids to come out for the team, which we have. We've increased our visibility," Paulhamus said, pointing out that the team's next outing will be Saturday in an all-Division III invitational at Albright College. A win there would give the college its first out-of-conference victory against higher-level competition.
"What's interesting about our team is a lot of these kids come in and they were not the No. 1 runner on their high school team. They were the third or fourth (best), but they were outstanding in an area where there were a lot of outstanding runners," the coach explained.
"I recruit. I go to all visitations and if anyone shows an interest I stay on them until they determine they're not coming at all, or until I get them to come here," Paulhamus continued. "I can't offer them anything (scholarships), but I make them feel very wanted."
And at Penn College, under Paulhamus' guidance, they have reached their full potential and become champions.
Complete rosters and season schedules are available on the college's Athletics Web site .