Newly merged cross country hires former Olympian to coach

After two winning seasons, the boys and girls cross country teams have combined into one squad for the upcoming season under new head coach and former Olympian Johnny Gray.

The merger is something that former boys team head coach Geoffrey Bird said “always made sense.” He added that runners are grouped by levels of skill, so it made no sense to divide up boys and girls of the same skill level.

Bird will retain a position on the team, serving now as the chef de mission, a term given to a staff member who oversees the program and makes sure things run smoothly.

Gray ran for the US at four Summer Olympics and won the bronze medal in the 800 meter in 1992.

Gray will be the “physical face” of the team this year, attending all the practices.

The team, however, has to deal with the loss of their star runner Chris Okano ’08, who graduated last year. Veteran senior Caroline Cuse ’09 was made the team captain with fellow seniors Chris Chang ‘09 and Michael Richardson ’09 as joint co-captains.

“There’s a lot of excitement in the kids,” Bird said.

Even Gray has an optimistic outlook on the seasons to come.

“We have a very young and talented group of kids,” Gray said. “It’s my job to help the kids see what they’re capable of accomplishing.”