After two years as an assistant coach, Julie Culley has been promoted to the position of interim director of the track and field and cross-country program, replacing former director Mike Smith.
Culley will be taking over a program that consists of two nationally ranked cross-country teams, the No. 7 men and the No. 19 women, both of which have rich histories of success both on and off the race course.
Culley was a former U.S. Olympic runner, having won the women’s 5000-meter race at the U.S. Olympic trials to send her to the 2012 Olympics. She was a finalist in her event. Culley believes her experience as a runner and a coach will prove to be beneficial to the student-athletes.
“I’ve coached on a bunch of different levels, so I’ve been a head coach before and I’ve been an assistant coach to several incredible coaches throughout my career thus far,” Culley said. “Having been a collegiate athlete and then taking it to the next level and running semiprofessionally and then professionally for a number of years, [my experience is] only serving this team in a way that helps them understand this sport better.”
As an assistant coach to the program last year, Culley helped steer the women to the distance medley relay title at the 2016 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. In the outdoor season, the women won the same race at the Penn Invitationals. The U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association named Culley its 2016 Mid-Atlantic Women’s Assistant Coach of the Year for her performance. Culley plans on imparting her knowledge about the sport to all her student-athletes.
“I think sometimes being so locked into one train of thinking, whether that’s the collegiate system, the high school system or the professional system, you kind of lose perspective a little,” Culley said. “I think coming into this, the experience I have coaching at many different levels and competing in a bunch of different realms [helps].”
The men’s and women’s cross-country teams have each experienced early season success so far. At the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Club Invitational, junior Autumn Eastman claimed sixth place, leading the way for the women with a time of 21:17. Meanwhile, on the men’s side, junior Christian Alvardo was named the Big East Cross Country Male Athlete of the Week for his performance. Alvarado crossed the finish line in fourth place at a time of 26:31.6.
Culley hopes that the Hoyas can continue to build on this performance and strive for excellence. Consistent excellence, the coach believes, will bring national recognition to the program. She will have the help of recent success and the crop of elite athletes currently on the team.
“I think [consistent success is] a big challenge in and of itself because these teams are as good as they’ve ever been at Georgetown. If I can, along with the staff, maintain where that is and always be contending for a national championship, I think that would be the ultimate in coaching,” Culley said.
Looking ahead, the Hoyas will race in the Paul Short Run in Bethlehem, Pa. Looking beyond that, Culley spoke about how she ultimately wants to be remembered.
“Your legacy really is the experience of the student-athletes,” Culley said. “If you have cycles of student-athletes coming through every four years with great experiences, great performances and great learning lessons, and they walk away from Georgetown with their head held high as alumnae and individuals who want to contribute to this program, I think that’s really the ultimate.”