This past summer, I attended the Country Roads Cross Country Camp in Canaan Valley, and one of the camp’s speakers, University of Charleston Cross Country and Track Coach Nick Bias, really caught my eye, for his attention to detail for young runners.
It was refreshing to hear someone talk about the value of being a student-athlete and the challenges that come with the experience.
When the cross country season started this year, I made sure I kept up with Bias' teams as they competed in the Mountain East Conference. It didn’t surprise me that his Golden Eagles men’s squad captured the MEC title, which Bias told me came from some hard work.
“I knew coming into this season we were going to have a very talented team," Bias said, "because of our recruiting class and the returning runners. All of the runners embraced the challenge, put in the training and it paid off.”
This was the second consecutive conference championship for the men’s team, which finished 22nd in the nation last year.
For any cross country team to compete against the best, they have to put the time into getting ready. I asked Bias what was the team’s mindset this season, knowing they had that championship bulls-eye on their backs.
“They came up with a motto this year, 'You Can’t Cheat the Grind,' and all of them bought into that type of thinking throughout the season, knowing that if they worked hard and pushed each other, everything else would take care of itself. We have a good group of juniors and seniors, and they lead by example, which makes my job easier,” he said.
After graduating from Concord University in 2006, Bias got his first coaching opportunity at the age of 22 at Scott High School, moving onto George Washington High School in 2012, before landing the UC position in 2014.
When Bias took the position at UC, he was starting a men’s program from the ground up. He talked to me about the challenges of starting a brand-new team.
“It takes a special student-athlete to want to be part of a brand new program," he said. "I was looking for that runner who wanted to be part of something new and exciting and wanted to grow both physically and mentally with the program we were starting.”
The team was ranked as high as number nine nationally in Division II this season.
Earlier this month, I got to work with Bias on the TV broadcast of the state cross country championships held at Cabell Midland High School. It was refreshing to hear him talk about the caliber of runners that are in the Mountain State right now, saying, “There are a bunch of very good runners in West Virginia right now, and what I do is when a runner is going into their junior of senior year, I start watching them a lot closer, talking to them and get a feel if they would blend into our system. I have targets on who I think would work for our program and go from there. Hey, remember, I am a West Virginian, so it’s fun recruiting homegrown student-athletes and watching them compete.”
Bias has been known to reach outside of the state boundaries for a recruit as one of his runners, David Cecchi, this season hails from Perth, Australia.
You may have read before in my column that the running community is a brotherhood and listening to Bias talk about his team, I know his heart is in the right place when it comes to coaching each one of his runners. I can only hope that he is again one of the coaches involved in the running camp again next year and we can put some miles in together.