Terry Weir was always one of the fastest kids in the schoolyard.
Still, when the head cross country coach’s friends tried to convince him to make running his sport, Weir was not swayed. It wasn't until he was cut from his middle school hoops team that Weir ditched the hardwood for the track – without even changing his sneakers.
“For some reason, I just kept showing up to practice and running in my basketball shoes,” Weir said.
After high school, Weir went on to run varsity cross country for University of South Alabama. While there, his speedy times helped the Division I program show up Southeastern Conference powerhouses like
Florida and Auburn. And after garnering countless collegiate honors, such as the 1993 Sun Belt Conference Cross Country Champion and Runner of the Year awards, Weir began running professionally for the Reebok Enclave in D.C., where he trained alongside four Olympians.
Weir ran until he noticed other runners beginning to beat him. As it so often happens, the grueling nature of distance running and the physical damage it can cause started to catch up with him a few years into his post-collegiate career. Though he decided to close his professional running career, coaching the sport was the furthest thought from his mind at the time.
“I remember going to a high school cross country camp and seeing all of these coaches that I knew,” Weir said. “I thought, ‘Shoot me if I ever become a coach.’ Lo and behold, now I’m a coach.”
After taking over as head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country teams last year, Weir’s used his experiences to revamp the Colonials’ training regime. To his runners, he preaches “overall consistent development,” a concept he sees as the best safeguard against the kind of grinding injuries that ended his career.
His teams’ health is a priority, as well as their training and ability to work as a unit. Weir focuses on individuals, understanding that each athlete is unique.
“When it comes down to motivating an athlete, you really have to get to know them – what makes them tick. I treat them all the same, but I motivate them differently,” Weir said.
The coach’s approach has already paid dividends. The men’s and women’s cross country teams both finished in the top three out of 10 and 11 teams, respectively, at the Sea Gull Opener Sept. 1. It is a sign of improvement after the Colonials’ two 11th place finishes at the A-10 championship last season, and Weir intends to make this progress a trend.
“I think the fact that he was a professional runner before helps a great deal. It shows us, as his team, that he knows what he is talking about,” women’s senior Julia Weir said.
The coach is striving to make a name for the program in the mid-Atlantic with a staggered set of goals that run from being in the A-10's top five to eventually claiming the league title.
It is with these goals that Weir can most clearly see the parallel between coaching and running – the constant theme of individual ownership.
“What’s so great about running is that you have yourself to blame and yourself to pay,” he said. “If there is anything I would want to look back on, it would be taking a program that was struggling and leaving it in a better place.”