New Coach, Same Goals: Cross country coaches and athletes discuss the legacy of old head coach and plans with the new one.


Rachael Tan

Real Talk: Head Coach Andy Dalton discusses recovery and training with senior and varsity runner Corrine Miller. Miller believes Dalton will bring many effective ideas to the program.

Ben Traylor, Sports Reporter

This seventh consecutive state championship, as well as a fourth-place finish in the 2016 Nike Cross Nationals, Mark Ellington of the women’s cross country team will not be returning this upcoming season as Head Coach, citing family reasons to retire after eight years.

“Being a high school head coach could very well be a full time job,” Ellington said. “There is so much to be done and only small amounts of time during the day in which to complete them. I tend to have a personality of taking it all on, and learning to delegate and develop a coaching staff to divide the labor was a necessary skill to develop.”

In his time at CHS, Ellington led the team to their longest state championship streak in team history, shattering their previous record of five from 1984 to 1988. With word of his departure, the search for a new leader for the program began in the offseason.

“When coach Ellington announced his intention to resign in the fall, he told our athletic director, Mr. Inskeep, who posted the position with the hope of getting as many Carmel High School and other local prospects,” Assistant coach Katie Kelly said.

Andy Dalton had previously served as assistant coach and was directly chosen by the school community in early 2017. He was one of dozens of applicants for the position and had been with the program for three years.

“A group of administrators, student athletes, other coaches and parents sat down together to ask the candidates questions where they narrowed it down to two,” Kelly said. “Dalton was the only applicant to meet with Principal Williams and Mr. Inskeep and

 they asked him about his plans for the year. I believe we have an excellent choice in coach Dalton.”

Likewise, Ellington is positive on the upcoming season and believes success under coach Dalton will be upheld by the runners who make up the program and the community that supports it.

“We are fortunate to live in a community that is supportive of running,” Ellington said. “Our students have an opportunity to compete in running in elementary school through Pup Running program. Athletes have been great in sharing and passing along their own experiences to younger, newer athletes. This tradition and culture is a strong influence on the attitude of each season’s team. No team wants to be a disappointment to the previous teams.”

Nonetheless, parting ways with a long-time coach comes with growing pains. In 2009, when Ellington joined the program, the team was already reigning state champions, but failed to capitalize in his first season, losi

ng to Columbus North at the conclusion of the 2009-10 season. Since then, Ellington and the team had not lost.

“We, as a team, try to take it one meet at a time,” Junior Zoe Alberts said. “However, a state championship is the overall goal, where we have won as long as I can remember.”

The team’s recent streak has always been a goal for coaching staff and resuming the streak will be crucial for Head Coach Dalton and team morale in the 2017-18 season.

“My goal is not to fill the shoes of coach Ellington, as that wouldn’t be possible, but to instead do my best to continue to build on the tradition and legacy of the Carmel cross country program,” Dalton said. “Our competitiv

e goals as a team are to win a state championship and to qualify for Nike Nationals.  But more importantly, our coaching staff is focused on ensuring that all the girls on the team improve as athletes, develop as individuals and build life-long friendships.”

In previous seasons, these aspirations were fueled by coach Ellington’s ability to motivate and mentor his team, a skill that only improved with experience on the team.

“Coach Ellington is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met,” Kelly said. “He has an amazing ability to not only encourage, but to challenge the team. I know that the girls are attracted to the program because he makes them feel important. One of the things coach Ellington did to uphold that is knowing all the girls’ names and their best time. He knew what challenges they were facing in a team of over 130 girls.”

Similarly, according to Alberts, varsity and JV athletes were equally cherished by Ellington and his style of team management through individual focus on each athlete did not go unnoticed among runners. His largest role to many was conveying an inspiring message each time he was around his team.

“He always let us know whatever time we got was good enough as long as we put our all into it,” Alberts said. “It mentally motivates us because you always felt like you were in first place around him. He always made us feel confident. He was the head motivational speaker and led us in prayer before races.”

In upcoming years, the coaching staff will explore new ways to preserve the energy once brought by coach Ellington while not altering fundamental aspects of team chemistry.

“Our plan here is not to reinvent the wheel,” Kelly said. “We have plenty of good things going for us here and even without coach Ellington and with a few minor tweaks, I know we can succeed.”