College Cross Country: Foster runs to head spot at Edinboro
Clayton Foster considers himself an "I Can" type of guy and he continues to prove himself correct.
The Pequot Lakes High School and Minnesota State University Moorhead graduate was hired as the men's and women's head cross-country coach for the Edinboro University Fighting Scots in Edinboro, Pa.
Foster was an assistant coach at Adams State University the last five seasons and felt his time to lead was now.
"This just seemed like the right fit," Foster said. "It's a small town. It's a small university. There's lots of alumni support and it just seemed like a great fit with the potential to be really good on the national level. I pulled the trigger on it."
Foster inherits a rising women's program and an up-and-coming men's team.
The Edinboro women's team, a freshmen-dominated squad, won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and Atlantic Region titles, with the men finishing second in both races.
"We are very, very young on the women's side with a large recruiting class on the men's side, as well that are all young freshmen," Foster said. "The future is bright. The women, specifically, were 19th at the NCAA Championships last year with five out of seven being freshmen. They were a talented, young group. The sky is the limit with them. I just need to tap into them and get them excited about the process and becoming great."
Foster worked at Adams State since 2013. He earned his master's degree in human performance and physical education from there in 2016. As a track and field assistant, he oversaw the training plans and competition strategies for the runners in the 800-meter up to 10,000-meters. He'll have those duties at Edinboro as well.
Adams State enjoyed incredible success during Foster's five seasons as an assistant under head coach Damon Martin. In cross-country, Adams State won nine NCAA Division II National Championships, with the men's team winning in 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017. The women won titles in 2015 and 2017. The women's indoor track and field team won national championships in 2014 and 2017, while the men's team claimed the 2015 national championship.
Translating what he learned as an assistant to the head job will be the challenge for Foster.
"That, I think, is an art," Foster said. "There's a fine art to motivating 18 to 22-year-olds. It's about having a commonality and a common goal they're all striving for. They all come from different walks of life. I need to implement something where everyone has a common goal of chasing. At Adams, we were chasing excellence. Here I want to chase greatness and the fact of working hard on a daily basis and have a common goal that everyone is passionate about.
"Implementing that, that takes time to get the team to buy in and have a belief in something bigger than themselves."
The 2009 Pequot Lakes graduate put the Patriots cross-country team on the map. He led Pequot to a third-place team finish his junior year as he ran a fifth-place time of 16:23.0. He was 26th as a sophomore.
His senior year he finished in a runner-up time of 16:14.5 behind Warroad's Moses Heppner. Foster was the top finisher among runners who were representing teams. He led Pequot to another third.
"At Pequot, that was where I think I started my idea that I could be a good coach," Foster said. "I didn't really think about it, but as I reflect back on it, taking the lead of the team my junior and senior years at Pequot it kind of started there. I don't know. When you're a young kid you don't really think about that. I always wanted to be a great teammate and a great role model for incoming kids. Cross-country wasn't the school sport. It was for nerds you would call it or the outcasts. I felt like having everyone be excited and in a good mindset about what we were doing and how we could be successful at the state level was my job. I wanted to be a positive figure and peer. That was important to me.
"Then going to Moorhead, it was the same kind of thing. My junior and senior year they had me as a captain. I just felt being neutral with the entire team, but always being a positive figure for underclassmen and even the guys in my grade could come to and discuss things."
Foster was a four-time NCAA national qualifier at Moorhead, where he earned his bachelor's degree in exercise science. In addition, he was a four-time Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference individual champion and two-time NSIC relay champ. By the end of his collegiate career, Foster was a 10-time NSIC All-Conference selection and the holder of two MSU-Moorhead school records. He was a captain from 2011-13 for both cross-country and track and field.
"Being an 'I can' kind of guy is an extremely powerful thing," Foster said. "People get caught up in the mediocrity of life they don't realize the potential of working hard on a daily basis.
"It's extremely important in today's world to just be passionate and have a strong work ethic for something and to follow through with it and chase it. Not many people have the attention span to put all their effort toward something to see the results of being great."