by Eileen Flynn ’20
For the past 33 years, Providence College has been lucky enough to have one of the best cross country and track coaches in the nation. Ray Treacy ’82 came back to coach in 1984, just two years after he graduated. The running program at PC has grown into a powerful dynasty, finishing on the podium in seven different seasons over the course of the last 30 years. I recently got a chance to ask Coach Treacy a few questions about his time at the College. When asked if the big wins and success stories of his former players help him return each year with the same energy, Treacy smiled thinking about the past. “It definitely keeps you motivated. There is a turnover every year, you lose some great runners and bring in others. The cycle has been pretty good to us over the years. Each group that comes into the program motivates you in a different way.”
Although Coach Treacy enjoys every year, there are obviously some seasons that are more memorable than the rest. Luckily for the Friars, there have been two in the past 25 years that have been extra special. In 1995 and again in 2013, Providence College clinched the highest title in the nation and became NCAA champions. Treacy described the season leading up to the 2013 race and the hard work it took to come out on top. “We had the top-three runners in the country on our team: Sarah Law, Emily Sisson, and freshman Catarina Rocha. Our number five person, who is just as important as the number one person, was Grace Thek. Unfortunately, she didn’t race that season until the week before the Big East.” At the pre-nationals meet, PC and all the other contenders were out-raced by Georgetown. Without Thek, Coach Treacy appreciated the lack of attention his team received during the season. He wasn’t nervous about losing a couple spots in the national ranking. In fact, he was grateful that it lightened the pressure on his athletes.
“After we introduced her at the Big East meet, and it went really well, we knew we had a really good chance of winning it.”
Big East was first on the agenda and the athletes from the College were focused and prepared. “We dominated that day. We had three in the top four and Catarina finished in 7th while Grace was closely behind in 13th.”
The confidence that came with winning the Big East helped the Friars in the national competition. Luckily enough, there were no injuries in between races. The three high-profile, all-American runners for Providence were ready to lead their team for one final race. Coach Treacy was grateful for the shortcomings in his 2011 and 2012 seasons because he thinks his team learned a lot from losing. On a very windy day in November, the Friars beat teams like University of Arkansas, Georgetown University, and University of Arizona and took the national title for the first time in over 15 years. “A fall could put an end to your chances of winning so it was all about staying on your feet and executing the race to the best of our ability and we knew we’d win if we could do that.”
It takes a certain type of coach to lead a team to victory. When asked about his coaching style, Treacy gave some insight into how he manages his team. “It’s a very individual sport and we treat everyone individually. You’re a team until you step on the line, you’re an individual from the time the gun goes off to the time you finish and you’re a team again at the finish line. It’s a matter of everyone doing their job on that day, and if everyone does their job than you’re going to be successful.” And successful these Friars were, in 2013 and in seasons since.
This past season was not exactly what Coach Treacy was hoping for, but even the Friars are allowed rebuilding years. “When you don’t go to the NCAA for us, that’s not good. A lot of things didn’t come together for us at the end of the season. To be successful at that level, you have to be good, but you also have to have a little bit of luck as well.” Looking forward, there is hopefully some luck in the future for the Friars. Although they will have a young team by normal standards, Coach Treacy is excited about the new talent joining the experienced group of runners. And with that Coach Treacy tells me, “I am just as excited about what I do now as I was 30 years ago.” The PC family is forever grateful to have a coach and person like Treacy on campus, and will be expecting great things as he continues his coaching career.