Gary Johnson, professor of physical education and head cross country coach, has a simple yet effective system for recruiting runners for his teams.
“In our recruiting I always say we want to get Christian young men and women who are great students and just happen to run fast—in that order,” Johnson said. “The reputation of our team will always be solid Christian young people. Sometimes we will be fast, hopefully more often than not, but we are not willing to compromise what the school stands for, so we try to recruit students who would want to come to Union even if they didn’t run.”
Johnson’s goals for the teams include maintaining a 3.5 GPA and winning the conferences. He said his runners are serious students involved all over campus, and he expects great progress in season 17 of Union University cross country.
“The girls had a great season last year, and I’m sure that they will do great again this year,” he said. “The boys have trained hard and improved so much since last year, and I look forward to seeing what the season holds for them.”
Amy McKelvey, sophomore elementary education major, echoed Coach Johnson’s high expectations.
“Our team’s goal first and foremost is to glorify God in everything we do,” she said. “With that as our priority, we strive to honor God through our success.”
McKelvey said she is looking forward to another season with her teammates because they always encourage her to be the best version of herself.
Bailey Bell, senior economics major, is another prime example of a dedicated Christian athlete on the men’s team. It’s his fourth year on the cross country team and his 11th competitive season of cross country.
“I was thinking about it the other day and realized that the gas used during the 11 years of cross-country is somewhere in the 20,000 mile range,” Bell said. “I have spent a lot of time running over the past 11 years.”
He’s looking forward to leaving a lasting impact on his younger teammates, Bell said.
“I’ve always heard that nobody remembers the days you run your fastest, but they always remember the life you have shared with them over the thousands of miles you will run together,” Bell said.
The Union University cross country teams will begin the season with a twilight race on Saturday, September 5 in Memphis.