Walton alumnus Justin Wood is ready to run with his new Dartmouth coaching position.
In mid-November, Dartmouth named Wood as the head coach of men’s cross country and assistant coach of track and field. Wood has spent the previous two years at the University of La Verne in California s the men’s and women’s cross country head coach.
“I’m super excited about the position. Honestly, I’m very excited about coming back and being close to home, being back in the Northeast and being closer to my family,” Wood said. “Working at an Ivy League institution is extremely desirable. These are some of the best academic institutions in the entire country and world.”
Prior to La Verne, Wood served as the head of the cross country and track and field teams at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey from 2012 to 2018. Before that he had the same role at SUNY Delhi from 2008 to 2012.
SUNY Delhi Athletic Director Bob Backus said: “When Stevens opened up, it was the right move and his success there put the exclamation point on that. What he did there and what he accomplished and the national champions that he coached, it’s unprecedented. Here’s a guy from Walton, New York, Delaware County, and coaching NCAA champions.”
Wood said he has not been chasing a Division I job, but jumped at the opportunity when one presented itself. He cited his introduction to the high achieving scholar athlete during his time at Stevens, as a parallel and appealing factor to the athletes he will be working with at Dartmouth.
“That balance of the student-athlete being able to pursue their academic goals while competing at the highest level that’s an environment that I think really aligns with my philosophy and my core values, “ Wood said. “The opportunity at Dartmouth aligned in almost every possible way, so it was a no-brainer.”
Backus added: “Division I, Ivy League — that’s big time. That’s what most people aspire to. Be a Division I coach in any sport, that’s kind of as good as it gets.”
In the short term, Wood said, he hopes to bring organization, structure, attention to detail and culture to the already existing tradition of success at Dartmouth, while working towards integrating the programs tradition with his own style. Long term, Wood said his goal is to push Dartmouth back to the top of the Ivy League.
Wood said his high school coaches at Walton helped to begin shaping him into the athlete and person he eventually became.
“They really pushed me to commit myself to the sport at the high school level,” he said.
After high school, Wood was taken under the wing of Backus, who formerly served as the SUNY Delhi track and field coach. Backus, a Walton alumnus who like Wood ran track for the Warriors, recruited Wood to Delhi before later offering the coaching position.
“My door opened up and I wanted to open up his door and I wasn’t hesitant at all that he could really learn and grow and develop and understand what it meant to be a coach, because there’s a lot more than just throwing up workouts,” Backus said.
Wood attributed a significant portion of his coaching development and growth to his time at Delhi under Backus’ guidance.
As a Bronco, Wood was a standout cross country and track and field athlete, earning 11 National Junior College Athletic Association All-American honors and 4 NJCAA individual national titles while anchoring three relay teams on the way to national titles and garnering a 2004 SUNY Chancellor’s Scholar-Athlete award.
In his return to the Broncos as a coach, Wood led the team to NJCAA National Championships in 2009 and 2010. He also coached 23 NJCAA individual National Champions and saw 121 Broncos earn NJCAA All-American honors.
“I think anybody that knows Justin from the area has followed what he’s accomplished. This is a tremendous feather in our local sports history. If you think about it, it’s not just one guy gets a job. It’s a reflection on the competitiveness of our area, and you can make it if you get out there and do the right things, and Justin’s a great example of that,” Backus said.