Whatcom welcomes new cross country program and coach

The Whatcom Community College Athletics program will include a cross country team for the fall 2020 season, and will be coached by Jay Sloane.

Director for Athletics and Recreation at Whatcom, Danny Day, said the college was looking for new opportunities to provide to students, and cross country came up as a program that would benefit both the students and community.

“We already have an amazing running community,” Day said. “There are so many trails and places to run.”

Bellingham has a strong network of training and racing, thanks to programs like the Greater Bellingham Running Club, high school teams, and weekly community runs organized by local stores such as Fairhaven Runners and BBay Running.

Sloane stood out among the applicants for the position.

“We’re really excited to have Jay aboard, and just excited to have cross country getting going here at Whatcom and adding to the great programs we already have,” said Day.

Sloane has been running for over 40 years and coached for Mt. Baker and Nooksack high schools before coming to Whatcom. He works as a counselor but said coaching has always been his passion. He has provided private coaching for friends and even trained athletes to compete in the Olympic Trials. To him, coaching at a collegiate level felt like a good next step and a fun challenge.

“It was exciting to hear his vision for the program and to see that we had such a great local candidate,” said Day. “He’s already doing a phenomenal job and so we’re just excited to have him on board and see what he’s going to do next.”

“He’s really focused on the student athlete process as a whole,” said Day. “Everyone enjoys winning and running fast, but he’s focused on building each individual runner and improving them wherever they start out at.”

Those who have trained with Sloane agree that he helps runners grow.

“Jay is an awesome coach with many years of experience,” said Alyce Harlan, who ran with Sloane when he coached for Nooksack High School. “In my four years with him, I’ve seen a lot of kids make astounding improvements throughout the season.”

Carson Lee is a future runner for Whatcom, who has been running since 8th grade.

“I am most looking forward to meeting my new teammates and racing the 10k at the collegiate level under a coach who is very experienced,” he said.

While there has been a lot of interest in the program, COVID-19 will create some unique challenges for the first year.

Sloane says it’s been hard to build a team due to the stay-at-home order, but there’s been quite a bit of interest and recruiting over phone and email has been going well, he added.

He hopes the team will be able to begin training together this summer, but that depends on how long social distancing lasts.

“We want to meet as soon as possible,” he said in a recent interview.

For those interested in watching the team compete, there will be two local races Whatcom will be participate in.

The first, scheduled for August, is the Lake Padden Relays, hosted by the Greater Bellingham Running Club.

The second, set for October, is hosted by Western Washington University at the Sudden Valley Golf and Country Club.

Visit the Orca Athletics page on the Whatcom website for the latest information.

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