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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Cross-country head coach inspires generations of players

Towne,GaryThe Chico State cross-country program has been fortunate to have head coach Gary Towne at the helm of the men and women’s programs for the last 18 seasons.

Towne, a native of Corning, Calif., got involved with cross-country as a high school student and continued to run at Shasta College, where he says he was just an average runner at best.

It was there that he acquired a newfound love for the sport of distance running.

“I grew to love the sport more and they inspired me to go into coaching at the college level,” Towne said.

Towne went on to run for the Wildcats and went on to become a voluntary coach for the ’Cats cross-country program while studying to get his master’s degree.

“I threw myself into every aspect of coaching as a voluntary assistant,” Towne said. “Those years were the most important coaching years that helped lead to me getting the head coaching job here.”

During his 18-year head-coaching career for the Wildcats, Towne has built an impressive résumé in both cross-country and track and field.

Towne has coached his Wildcat distance teams to 26 top-10 national rankings, was at the helm for Scott Bauhs’s 2008 cross-country national championship and helped 48 ’Cats earn All-American honors in cross-country. He also helped 73 distance runners earn those honors in track.

Cross-country is harder to coach than track and field, Towne said.

“Even though I am an assistant coach in track, I feel I get a little more gray hairs in the spring,” Towne said.

During his time at Chico State, Towne has helped cultivate a familial relationship with his teams, which is extremely difficult.

Ayla Granados, the 2013 women’s California Collegiate Athletic Association runner of the year, attributes the program’s success to its family atmosphere.

“It’s not a team, it’s a family,” Granados said. “It makes you want to run your hardest for your teammates, the alumni and the community.”

The time Towne spends with each athlete is unparalleled to what former runner and now assistant coach Tony Palermini has seen during his time around distance running.

“Even though he has so many athletes he coaches, he sets up running plans for each athlete individually over the year, to help them improve the most with their training,” Palermini said.

Towne will continue his coaching success as the Wildcats look for another top 10 finish for both the men and women’s programs at the NCAA Division II Nationals meet in Spokane, Wash. on Nov. 23.


Greg Silvia can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_sports on Twitter.


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