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Marshall's Cross Country Seniors are Leading by Example

Will Shaffer
Sept. 27, 2016

By Patrick O'Leary

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- For every sports team, whether it is in high school, collegiate, or professional athletics, the seniors and veterans of the team are the de facto leaders. For the Marshall Cross Country team, the 2016 seniors are no exception.
In fact, this group is gaining special praise for their leadership. The group of five seniors have all faced adversity in their own respect. And it is this adversity which drives superb leadership from the five runners. Through numerous injuries and busy schedules, they know how very crucial it is to make the most of the time they are able to run healthy.
“They’re fantastic leaders and students by their actions and voice,” head coach Jeff Small said. They have overcome a lot, especially with injuries. They are great representatives of Marshall University and for our athletic program.”
The five seniors leading the team include three men and two women; Tony Hayes, Drake Seccurro, William Shaffer, Amber Govey, and Andrea Porter. The five runners combined have set an example for the underclassmen both while running and in the classroom. The group of five are all accomplished and successful runners. However, their experiences over their four years as runners for Marshall are not typical. Yet, these experiences are what drive the four to be such valued leaders.
Tony Hayes is a native of Fairmont, W.Va., and began running for the Herd his freshman year in 2013. At the end of his freshman year, Hayes suffered a stress fracture. The fracture was so severe, he could not run on a regular schedule for a full year. Despite still feeling occasional pain in his shin from the ailment, Hayes uses his experiences as a teaching tool.
“We as seniors can keep our heads held high when we face troubles running. We know that we’ve been through so much that when underclassmen are facing trouble, they can look at us to get through it. We can tell them, ‘we overcame it, so can you guys.

Drake Seccurro from Hurricane, W.Va. has battled adversity his entire life. Seccuro has Crohn’s Disease, an autoimmune disease that can lead to many complications. In fact, the disease puts an impact on those who have it, many cannot avoid it in everyday life. It is sometimes called the ‘invisible illness’ because there may not be outward or physical symptoms.
“You learn a lot from the adversity you face, and it helps you to lead as well” Drake said.
Will Shaffer, native of Madison, W.Va., had injuries plague him even before starting to run his freshman year, in the form of blood clots in his lungs. After overcoming that difficulty and facing several other minor injuries, Will missed all of last cross-country season with patellar tendinopathy.
“A lot of the trouble that underclassmen could face, in good times and in bad times, we have likely been through it. It helps us to be leaders for them.”
Amber Govey, from Colliers, W.Va., felt the plagues from injuries early in her collegiate running career as well. After her freshman year, she fractured her foot, putting her out of running for three months in the crucial summer training period for runners. Govey felt the effects for several months after. When referring to the underclassmen, Amber mentioned how “they can feel comfortable coming to us as to what to do next when facing tough times.”
Lastly, Andrea Porter, a native of Point Pleasant, W.Va., faces non-injury related adversity for student athletes. She was dubbed by her fellow seniors as by far the ‘healthiest senior’. Andrea has stayed healthy when it comes to running, but in the classroom she is a nursing major. As a known very difficult field of study, she leads the underclassmen who have difficult classes by example. Because of classes and clinicals, she often has to run on her own and miss practice, and she occasionally misses class due to traveling for meets. However, as a senior and seeing the hard work of underclassmen, it motivates her as well.
“Despite being tired often from nursing, to see your teammates working so hard, it motivates me to continue to work hard and push through.”
The background information is explanation enough as to why this group of five seniors are such appraised leaders. The seniors credit current assistant coach Caleb Bowen and recent graduate Alexandra Phares as leaders and inspiration for them when they were younger members of the program. They were two of the runners they specifically mentioned who led them and whose hard work paid off in meets. They were two of the many people who taught them to lead by example in running.
Leading by example is a huge part of cross country. There are many good underclassmen in the current cross country program, but as Hayes put it, “You can’t lead from the back of the pack. It’s important for us to literally lead by example.”
The five seniors, who have truly made a great impact on the Marshall Cross Country program, are ready to take on this final season. “This is our last go around, we have to make the most of this last opportunity” Govey said. As the five are healthy, and ready to positively contribute to the team like they have the past few years, they are leading by example in practices, meets, and in the classroom. Their collective pasts allow them to be excellent leaders for the team.
As Will Shaffer tells his team, “In running, tomorrow is not guaranteed, next week, next month, and next year are not guaranteed, just look at us seniors and what we have faced. While you’re healthy make the most of it. ”
Student Assistant Patrick O’Leary of Charleston, W.Va., is in his second year with Marshall Athletics Sports Information.