Travis Dickerson
Mercury Staff

Former volunteer to start training men’s, women’s groups for fall season

The men and women’s cross-country teams entered the fall 2018 season with their first full-time coach, who will oversee both teams this semester.

Though the announcement of Danielle Kcholi’s full-time status was made on July 5, she has worked with both teams since last year. Senior runner and political science major Alireza Nourani, who competes on the men’s team, said the coach’s focus on the mental health of the runner makes them better prepared for the run.

“The past coaches have had more of an in-your-face style of coaching. Maybe that’s a good style for other sports,” Nourani said. “You have to understand where the athletes are coming from mentally, and she fits more into that category.”

Kcholi, who is from New Mexico, earned her master’s degree in physical education in 2013. Her career as a coach started before then, as she instructed both the men and women’s teams at Eastern New Mexico University — an NCAA Division II institution — in 2012. She led both teams to runner-up finishes at the Lone Star Conference while working there.

In 2017, she moved down to Dallas as a volunteer coach for the teams, where she helped the women’s team win the conference championship last year and helped the men’s team secure its second-place finish. One of Kcholi’s highlights during the 2017 season was assisting then-senior runner Lindsey Rayborn in becoming the first ever Comet to qualify for the NCAA Division III National Championships.

“I was ready for a change, so I approached the athletics director about what his vision was for the future of the program. Everything kind of aligned from there,” Kcholi said. “I walked into a great group of kids and we got to know each other throughout the year.”

In past seasons, coaches of the cross-country teams were made up of volunteers from the athletics department or coaches from the baseball and softball teams who put in extra time to keep the cross-country teams in shape. Kcholi said at most NCAA Division III universities, cross-country teams tend to lack full-time coaches, primarily due to budget limitations.

“We’re lucky here that we’ve had great coaches and volunteers to help the teams rise up to the challenge in the past,” Kcholi said. “I’m ready to pick up where we left off last season and see what the new term brings.”

The two teams opened the season on Sept. 1 in Mansfield, Texas against Dallas Baptist University at the Patriot Invitational.