Tuscola cross country will be led by a new face and a new vision this year. Will Norris will start his first season as head coach of both the boys and girls teams, taking over for Heather Phillips.

For Norris, who ran both cross country and track at Arkansas and served as a grad assistant for both teams at Appalachian State, his passion for running made this an easy job to take.

“I’m an avid runner myself, I really enjoy it and I’ve been passionate about it for a long time,” Norris said. “So I knew that I’ve always wanted to coach and it was a no brainer for me when the opportunity came up.”

Norris’s goals for the upcoming season would see the Mountaineers finishing in the top half of the conference, while sending some individual runners to states. Norris figures to rely on junior Alessea Caldwell and sophomore Macey Fisher on the girls side, along with freshman Luke Parish and senior Kennan Sanders-Huskinson on the boys side as key runners to help accomplish those goals.

That’s the first step of a long-term vision that includes being competitive at the top end of the conference and region and competing for a state title within the next few years.

That will start this year with Norris looking to build the culture he wants in the program, and sharing his passion for running with his athletes.

“I think the biggest thing is cross country is definitely one of those sports where self motivation is key,” Norris said. “As a coach, I’d like to think that I’m armed with all of the knowledge that I could be armed with. At the end of the day, I think it’s my job to help younger athletes realize their passion for the sport, and that’s something that kind of builds itself. When you get a great group of kids around each other, they kind of inspire those around them.”

Tuscola cross country will open the 2019 season Wednesday, Sept. 4 at the Watermelon Run, which will be hosted by Smoky Mountain High School at Western Carolina University’s campus.

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