Pensacola State College will field a new sports team this fall.
A women’s cross country team will join the Pirates Athletics program, Bill Hamilton, Pensacola State’s athletic director, announced during a May 22 press conference in Hartsell Arena.
Hamilton also introduced Julie Burger as the team’s coach. Burger, an experienced triathlete, is director of the College’s Pharmacy Technician Program on the Warrington campus.
Recruiting will begin immediately for 10 scholarship positions on the cross country team, Hamilton said. There also will be five or six walk-on slots available.
“We plan to start recruiting locally – Dec. 1 was signing day, but we believe there are still high school athletes out there,” he said, adding the cross country team would participate in local and regional meets.
Pensacola State will be the eighth Florida College System institution to have a women’s cross country team, Hamilton said. In the Panhandle Conference, Pensacola State will join Chipola State College and Tallahassee Community College. Daytona State College, Florida Gateway College, Florida State College-Jacksonville, Pasco-Hernando State College and Seminole State College also have women’s cross country teams.
Pensacola State President Ed Meadows added the College would spend the first year building the program.
“The 10 to 12 student-athletes who will make up the College’s cross country team will be high-achievers with great begin-and-finish rates, high GPAs and graduation rates,” Meadows said. “Their parents will be involved, and these young ladies will be good alumni. We are expecting great things from the program and are proud to be able to help these athletes begin their journeys.”
Burger, a four-year faculty member, pledged to do her best to ensure the women’s cross country program is beneficial to the student-athletes and the College.”
“We have a very successful athletics program, and I am excited to be part of the new addition. The running community in Pensacola is very active, and I am looking forward to having some talented young women join our cross country team,” said Burger who has participated in Mexico’s Rocky Point Triathlon, Tempe International Triathlon and Lake Pleasant (Arizona) Triathlon.
She also has run in the Blackwater Trail Challenge, Pensacola Beach Run, Pensacola Double Bridge Run, Pensacola Rock N Fly one-half marathon and other local 5Ks.
“In all the places I have lived this is one of the most beautiful to train ─ and train we will,” Burger said.
Hamilton said it has been 22 years since the College added a women’s athletic program – a volleyball team joined the lineup in 1997. However, he noted discussions have been going on since 2012 about the matter.
“In 2012, I submitted a report to Dr. Meadows about the sports we could consider – men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s cross-country,” he explained. “We’ve monitored the direction of those sports and in 2018, we talked again and looked at all of the variables – playoff potentials, conference championships, natural rivalries, travel competitions, etc.”
He said after careful consideration, it was decided a women’s cross country team would be the best fit for the College.
Burger added she wants to recruit young women willing to work hard at their athletic pursuits and studies.
“Running and education are both lifelong pursuits requiring strong will, determination, and dedication,” said Burger, who earned a bachelor’s degree in health science education from the University of Arizona and a master’s in public health from the University of West Florida.
“Pushing limits and your own abilities is part of the student experience, and I am excited to lead the women of cross country in their endeavors.”