Sep 9, 2019 at 9:28 PM
NORWICH – An Achilles tendon injury in July curtailed Jaclyn Sullivan’s running regiment of 30-plus miles a week. But the 28-year-old NFA graduate still has plenty to satisfy her passion of running while she recuperates.
Sullivan secured her first head coaching job this summer when she was appointed the new NFA boys cross country coach.
Sullivan, who still holds a couple of school records in the 4×800 and distance medley relay, succeeds Chad Johnson, a former NFA two-time State Open champ who went on to coach the Wildcats to nine ECC championships and a 120-6 record in 13 years. Johnson accepted the Mitchell College men’s cross country coaching position this summer.
Sullivan is a familiar face around NFA, having served as a cross country and track assistant coach responsible for long distances in the last three seasons.
Certified as a counselor, Sullivan has earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Southern Connecticut and masters’ degrees from the University of Hartford and UConn.
Roy Wentworth, NFA’s new athletic director, called her a “certified expert on long distance running.”
Sullivan feels she is ready for head coaching responsibilities.
“I have an exercise science degree, have experience as a runner and an assistant, having coached great NFA runners such as Connor Gralton, Nick Fitch and Brandon Mehninger, and I was coached by Chad Johnson,” Sullivan said. “I respect the heck out of Chad. Nobody can replace him but I hope to build upon what he established here.”
Sullivan inherits a team with plenty of returning contributors, including seniors Dylan McGuire, Peyton Ramsey and Digby Ludlow and junior Aidan Brown.
NFA, which finished second in ECC Division I to East Lyme last season, has set its sights on winning the division crown this year.
East Lyme graduated two top runners from its 2018 championship team that totaled 36 points in the ECC meet. NFA was second with 61 points, led by top finishes by McGuire (6th), Brown (9th), Ramsey (10th) and Ludlow (16th). Sophomore Tyler Crabb, who was third in the ECC JV meet, and juniors Tim Jencks and Aiden Tapia look to crack the top pack as well.
“It’s been a different runner leading the pack almost every day, but we have a nice top pack of five or six and there’s healthy competition,” Sullivan said. “This group has good chemistry and trained together during the summer. I’m looking to develop a second pack to chase the top pack and close the gap on them. We had a about 30 try out, which is a good turnout, not quite as large as Chad’s biggest teams, but not bad.”
Sullivan looks to impart knowledge from her own running career on the team.
“I found that when I focused on my own development, not being concerned with my competition, I experienced the most growth and achieved more PRs,” Sullivan said. “This is high school, I want our runners to focus on themselves and together form a family atmosphere.”