Alex Hider

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Looking to grow its long-distance running program into one of the area’s best, Portsmouth High School has hired former Shawnee State standout runner Corey Culberston as its next cross country coach.

As an SSU senior in 2009, Culbertson, became the second runner in school history to earn NAIA All-American honors in cross country. That same season, he helped the Bears finish fourth at the NAIA National Meet in Vancouver, Washington.

After working as a traveling auditor for a few years, Culbertson was hired on in Shawnee State’s payroll department in 2014. With extra free time on his hands, he jumped at the chance to start his coaching career.

“Coaching kids…is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Culbertson said. “I started to think of ways that I could stay involved in running, and I thought I would send some local high schools an email and see if they needed help.”

The Trojans already have a strong tradition of sprinting success. However, it’s been at least 16 years since a Trojan has qualified for the state cross country meet.

“They don’t have a rich distance history…and I think that’s because the cross country numbers have been so low,” Culbertson said.

Culbertson’s biggest challenge at Portsmouth will be to increase participation. As of now, with just four boys and one girl, the Trojans would not be able to qualify as a team in any cross country meets this fall. Schools need at least five boys or five girls to qualify as a team.

However, if Culbertson can find a few more runners, he’s confident he can develop a winning culture.

“There’s some young talent. If we can get a full team, I think the young talent can develop,” he said. “I think, with time, the culture can change. Kids will want to be on the program because it’s a good program.”

Culberstson knows there will be ups and downs in his first season as head coach. Luckily, he’ll be able to rely on one of the most successful running coaches in the region — SSU track and field coach Eric Putnam, his former coach and mentor.

“He’ll come over and work with the kids and try and get them fired up,” Colbertson said. “I think these kids really look up to the SSU runners.”

All in all, Culbertson’s secret to success is simple.

“All it takes to be a good runner is you have to run,” he said. “…There’s no reason Portsmouth can’t be good at cross country.”

Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter

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