A former high school and college cross country and track runner, Head Coach Patrick Rielly has taken charge of Andover Girls Cross Country this season in place of former Head Coach Rebecca Hession, who is on sabbatical this year.
Coach Rielly began running to help improve his basketball skills, but says he soon began to prefer it over the sport he had been training for.
Coach Rielly wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “I first joined my high school track team to stay in shape for basketball but quickly found that I liked running in circles better than running inside squares. Circles aren’t nearly as sharp.”
In his first year as Head Coach, Coach Rielly says he is determined to help each member of the team run faster, regardless of her prior experience with the sport.
“My favorite thing about cross country is that we get runners of all experience levels on the same team, aiming for the same goal: to get faster. From the runners who have years of competitive experience to those who are running for the first time, everyone is competing on the same 5K course. It’s a wonderful collective project,” said Coach Rielly.
According to Brooke Sanders ’19, Posie Millett ’20, and Captain Rhea Chandran ’19, Coach Rielly has adapted well to the team so far, despite it being his first year coaching Andover Girls Cross Country.
Sanders said, “He’s made a really smooth transition because he’s kind of keeping some of the same traditions and things that we did last year but also bringing his own individual things. His showing of how committed he is to us and to the team has made everyone really like him, and he’s been a really good fit for the team.”
“Coach Rielly is new this year to the girls team… But, you can hardly tell because he’s really integrated into the team really well and is constantly showing support and letting us know what’s going on, and is very clear with our workouts and that what we’re doing is really for the best of our benefit,” said Millett.
According to Coach Rielly, he hopes to retain the traditions and positive culture of the team while building on its successful history.
“I feel so lucky to be coaching GXC this season. The team is legendary in New England for its competitive success and its strong, supportive culture. I see my job as trying to preserve the things that make Andover Girls Cross Country an unforgettable experience,” said Coach Rielly.
Mariam Elkheshen ’21, Sanders, and Millett say Coach Rielly focuses on every member of the team and their individual needs.
Elkheshen said, “[Coach Rielly is] pretty understanding whenever someone’s pretty tired. He’s just like, ‘Take a day off and cross train.’ He runs with us, so he kind of motivates us to run and go harder and push it.”
Sanders said, “I would just say [my favorite thing about him is] how much he cares about the team and how much he cares about us individually… Especially in preseason, he was showing us scholarly articles and things that he has read to figure out how to best structure the workouts. He’s always checking in with us individually about how each workout and meet went. How much he cares really motivates us all to do better and to commit to the team like he does.”
Two things that Coach Rielly stresses the most are staying healthy and working hard, according to Sanders and Millett.
Sanders said, “He always emphasizes [that we] ‘opt into the challenge.’ He also makes sure we’re the sleep team… Our three things that we’re focusing on are community, strength, and efficiency as kind of his three goals. He’s done a pretty good job with them. I think we’ve had a really good team atmosphere. And our workouts are pushing us to be stronger both mentally and physically.”
Millet said, “He really puts a value on being healthy and keeping yourself to your highest standards like sleep and nutrition and all of that stuff and not pushing yourself. I was injured for a week and a half towards the beginning of the season, and he really made sure that I was keeping off my shins, doing what was healthiest for me and not just pushing myself past my boundaries. He really makes sure that everyone is the healthiest self that they can be.”
Coach Rielly has also been in communication with Chandran, and the two have collaborated in their goal of maintaining the team’s strength, according to Chandran.
Chandran wrote, “As a Captain, Coach Rielly is really easy to talk to. He is always asking about what I think about the team dynamic and how things are going which is great. We definitely work together when it comes to keeping traditions alive.”
According to Coach Rielly, he hopes the team continues improving throughout the season.
“Our goal is to get a little bit stronger every day. If we do that, we can compete to our best ability every meet,” wrote Coach Rielly.