The Belmont University cross-country team is celebrating a milestone this year as it celebrates 40 years on campus.
The program took off in 1976 after Mark Dennis, a student and basketball recruit, felt driven to take up a second sport. He teamed up with Dave Young, who coached the first Belmont cross-country team, which included current coach Jeff Langdon.
“We had four people on the team to start. We were the core of the team,” said Dennis. “It’s always been something I have loved. I don’t consider it a job as much as I do a passion for the sport.”
Langdon looks back on his years coaching and running with not only a sense of nostalgia, but also extreme pride.
“Basically from 2001 to 2009 we were the dominant program in the conference, and we are really making a splash now at the regional level,” said Langdon. “Back in my senior season, the last race I ever ran qualified the Belmont team for the national championship. It was the highlight of my career.”
Since its introduction, the cross-country team has had many successes. From 2002 to 2007 the team brought an Atlantic Sun record for six consecutive Ohio Valley Conference championships.
Langdon has served on the coaching staff since 1986, just three years after his graduation. In the early 1990s, he was named head coach for both the cross-country and track and field teams. All students who compete for the cross-country team also compete as members of the track and field team.
It was during this time that one of the most important events for the teams occurred: Belmont cross-country and track and field teams switched conferences, making a giant jump to being named a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I team.
“What’s interesting is that we didn’t expect to be named Division I at the time,” said Langdon. “We were having tremendous success as a team, and I think the expectation was that we would be identified as an NCAA Division II competitor. It was intimidating, but the university began supporting us with more scholarship money to make the transition smooth.”
Langdon’s dedication to the team is unwavering as he serves not only as a coach, but a role model to many of the athletes.
“In coaching this team, I have to set a platform,” said Langdon. “I want our athletes to want to come back to Belmont after having this experience on the team. The point of this team is to have them walk in as 18-year-old freshman and have them walk out ready to tackle the world.”
The Belmont cross-country team finished this past weekend in the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend, Indiana. The team will head down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to compete in the Crimson Classic on Oct. 14.
This article was written by Ally Pace. Photo courtesy of Jeff Langdon.