By Rob Centorani
It's Justin Wood's time to pass the baton.
Following four highly successful years coaching SUNY Delhi's cross country and track and field programs, Walton graduate Wood will soon take a job with a private fitness company in Clinton, N.J.
One of the most accomplished runners in SUNY Delhi history, the 29-year-old Wood said he will work for Pro-Activity and train employees of corporate clients to prevent on-the-job injuries.
"He wanted to do something different," said Broncos athletic director Bob Backus, who coached the cross country and track teams from 1993-2008 before accepting the AD position and hiring Wood to succeed him. "It's coaching of a different sort. He had a successful four years and maintained the integrity of the programs. When I became the athletic director, I wanted to make sure the success of our programs continued. As one of my former runners _ and one of the most competitive guys I've coached _ he maintained the quality of the programs."
Delhi is accepting applications for Wood's successor.
"We've already had multiple applicants," Backus said. "The next person will have big shoes to fill, but he'll also have a lot of support. We're a cross-country and track-and-field school. I think I can state they are the marquee programs at the college."
Under Wood's direction, the Broncos won men's NJCAA Division III titles in cross country in 2009 and 2010. The men's track program finished runner-up at nationals the past four seasons.
Wood has coached 121 NJCAA All-Americans and his athletes have established 20 school records.
"I've gotten a lot out of the school, and I hope the athletes and institution got something out of me," said Wood, who earned a masters degree in exercise science from Southern Connecticut State in 2008; a bachelors degree in social and behavioral science from Seton Hall in 2006; and an associates degree in physical education studies from Delhi in 2004. "It's time for a new coach to continue the success of the program."
Upon graduating from Walton in 2002, Wood spent two years at Delhi. He was a seven-time national champion in cross country and track and earned 11 NJCAA All-American honors.
Wood, also active in the local road racing scene, then competed at the Division I level for Seton Hall, receiving all-Big East honors.
"It was very difficult because of the strong ties I have to coach Backus and to the program," Wood said of leaving Delhi. Wood added he plans to continue to compete as a distance runner.
"I think the people in this company are a very active group," said Wood, whose parents live in Trout Creek. "Part of the draw of going to this area is it's a very active area. The other employees are either triathletes or runners. There are great places for me to train there. I'm close to being in the best shape I've been in, so there could be several more years of racing."
The next Delhi coach will have a couple of local recruits with whom to work. Milford sprinter Brett Smith and Oneonta High middle-distance runner Levi Anderson will compete for the Broncos next season.
Backus said finding someone will local ties to replace Wood would be nice, but it's not mandatory. Backus cited men's basketball coach Rob Schoener as someone who's had success without being from the area.
He added he'd like to make the hire by July 1.
"The sooner we get the new person in place, the better," Backus said, "but we also want to make the right decision."
Rob Centorani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.