Valdosta State cross-country has a confident new leader this season as new head coach Clinton Bell takes over for departed Todd Smoot.
Bell brings his decorated track record from Big East powerhouse Pittsburgh, where he served as an assistant track and cross-country coach.
“I’ve had the opportunity to be with some good programs,” Bell said. “Whether it’s Division I or Division II, I’ve taken a lot away from my experiences being involved with and trained by some of the top coaches in the nation.”
876 miles from his last job, Bell does not see his change of address as an adjustment thus far.
“It’s only warm, that’s it,” Bell says laughingly. “Other than that, I enjoy it. It’s not really a big transition for me. Coaching is coaching—no matter where you are. Valdosta has a great tradition of winning.”
“It’s just warmer so we practice a little earlier in the morning verses practicing in the afternoon,” Bell added. “I can tell that it’s different for our athletes, but I think it works out better that way for us.”
Bell holds his practices six days a week at 6 a.m. but admits that his team is responding well to the change.
“It takes a while for everyone to get going,” Bell said. “It’s an adjustment but they’re getting used to it.”
Bell’s success extends past the realm of coaching. Bell was an All-American at Seton Hall and competed in the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 1500 meters.
“I think winning is just as much of a learning process as it is with ability,” Bell said. “I’ve been a part of winning programs my whole career. Success breeds success.”
Bell understands that his confidence may rub some the wrong way but the key, Bell says, is getting athletes that buy in.
“With my athletes now, they want to win,” Bell said. “They have an attitude where they want to be good. I talk about it a lot and when athletes hear you talk about winning, they just jump on board with that.”
“My expectation is not an expectation that they don’t have for themselves,” Bell explained. “I just make sure that we talk about it a lot.”
Bell believes his team will surprise this season and expects the team’s record to reflect accordingly.
“Coming into this season, there are a lot of bright spots,” Bell said. “The guys’ team is a team that is going to be a surprise, not just in the Gulf South Conference but in the region.”
`“We’re not regionally ranked yet—and I say yet because I think within the next couple of weeks, we’re gonna start seeing some rankings out of our guys’ team.”
Bell’s goal with Valdosta State is to restore pride and tradition to the Blazer cross-country team.
“We’re going to win,” Bell said with a grin. “We’re going to bring back the pride and tradition that was here years before I arrived.”
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