Men's cross-country coach discusses overseas recruitment

After winning the Southeastern Conference title for the second straight year last season, the Alabama men’s cross country team has become the class of the conference. A third-place finish at nationals, the Crimson Tide’s highest finish in school history, boosts Alabama’s image on the national level.

With the upcoming season still a couple weeks away, The Crimson White sat down with head coach Joe Walker to discuss the program’s newfound exposure.

Crimson White: What is the next step? Now that the Alabama cross-country team has reached success at the national level, where does the team go from there?

Joe Walker: Well, you know, we are where we wanted to be. Now, obviously, once you get there you want to stay on top. I think every year you have to renew that same sense of preparation and focus otherwise you start to slide back. We just got to be really fit and ready when it counts, that’s our focus right now.

CW: How is the team going to deal with losing two All-American runners from last year?

JW: We have got a pretty veteran group here now. We have got guys that have been in the system. It is a group that has been there and has done the job in the past and I fully expect them to do it again.

CW: You spend a lot of time in Africa recruiting, what has that experience been like for you?

JW: It is relaxing. I get a feel over there like all my worries are gone, it is all perspective. To me, everything is just a bit more casual.

CW: Much of the program’s success has been due largely to the success of the Kenyan athletes such as Tyson David and Emmanuel Bor. How does this success influence recruiting and the way, Kenyan athletes especially, see the University of Alabama?

JW: I think it is starting to expand. Basically, the Kenyan athletes see what an opportunity it is to train and study abroad in the United States. There are still not that many people educating the younger Kenyan community that there is a chance to go abroad. Once that news filters down, there are a lot of capable kids. The name Alabama is big now, everyone you run into over there interested in school, they know about Alabama.

CW: Any plans to branch out to different countries as well?

JW: We want to always expand and look for the most talented student athletes in the world. Obviously, that is what Alabama hopes to draw. I spent a couple days over in England trying to expand a little over that way. There are a lot of British students coming to the U.S. for athletics. We just continually work and look for little niches that we can get into.

CW: When the team does its long distance training, which athlete would you say is the most prone to get himself lost from the pack by making the wrong turn?

JW: I’m just going to go off of a recent experience in the last day and say Julius Bor. I had to go out in the van and find him. It had been about two hours and ten minutes and it was supposed to be a two-hour run, we hopped in the van and found him a mile and a half from where he needed to be.

CW: The SEC always seems to be stacked with talent, what are some teams that could challenge Alabama for the conference championship?

JW: I think Arkansas is going to be really good again. I think, when you look at them on paper, they could be the team to beat. Florida is really coming on strong. They have added a really good kid to their program. It is going to be a very competitive group.

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