Magness seeks ‘perfection’ with UH cross country
Entering his third year at UH, Steve Magness is comfortable taking the veins as head coach of the men and women’s cross country program.
By first serving as assistant coach behind former head coach Leroy Burrell, Magness was able to create a bond with student athletes while gaining the necessary tools to effectively manage his team.
“I’m fortunate that Coach Burrell let me put my stamp on this program and offered a lot of guidance along the way,” Magness said. “The biggest take-aways were how to manage a large group of athletes and deal with all of the personalities that come with it.”
After a successful previous season, Magness looks to continue reaching for excellence, pushing to bring UH cross-country to the forefront of NCAA athletics.
“The goal is to continually elevate the program every year and get a little better,” Magness said. “We really want to take the next step and not only do things on a conference level but also on a regional and national level.”
The Cougars’ preparation for excellence began in the Texas heat as runners took to their feet to train during the summer.
“What most people don’t realize is that the summer is where our athletes put in the work that sets them up for success,” Magness said. “We have athletes running up to 13 miles a day in the Houston heat getting ready for the season.”
Magness has also completed some training of his own, mentally preparing himself for the task of taking over this program by reviewing last year’s actions to create new ideas.
“Personally, I spend my summer refining and learning from what we did last year,” Magness said. “I go through our training plans and figure out where the mistakes were made and where areas are that we have room for improvement.”
Magness said that both the men’s and women’s teams are ready to contribute to the success of UH this year.
“On the men’s side, I really think we have the potential to qualify several athletes to NCAA nationals and have a strong supporting cast around them,” Magness said.
“On the women’s side, we have the deepest team since I’ve been here… and it wouldn’t surprise me if we have several ladies competing for top spots in the conference and regional meet,” Magness said. “I really think they are a group that is going to surprise some people.”
Magness said that managing the large number of participants is possibly the biggest aspect of coaching, but he has been relieved to find the cohesiveness of all runners throughout the program.
“I love the team aspect of it,” Magness said. “Yes, it’s individuals out there competing, but what really matters is how we come together as a team. They spend more time together as group training than they do with their family, classmates, professors, you name it.”
On the performance side of things, Magness said it was how much each athlete grew that he enjoyed the most.
Magness said that the end of the season probably brought one of the biggest highlights, with sophomore Brian Barraza placing 13th at the World Junior Championships among the successes of the team. “He was the first UH cross-country member to qualify for world juniors, so it was a big step in the program,” Magness said. “From top to bottom, we had people running personal bests.”
Magness comes into the 2014-2015 cross country season setting an expectation for perfection not only in running, but also in the classroom, as he holds his athletes to a high standard for excellence.
“Going forward, we are going to keep the same plan of fostering excellence in and out of the classroom,” Magness said. “The goal is always to shoot for perfection.”