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When Philo Germano crossed the finish line for Syracuse in 2015, he joined teammates Justyn Knight, Martin Hehir and Colin Bennie in a panic. The four were trying to figure out what place Syracuse had finished in. Minutes later, head coach Chris Fox burst onto the scene, screaming. They’d won the national championship.
The national title was the first for Syracuse’s men’s cross country team since 1951. For Fox and top assistants Brien Bell and Adam Smith, the win served as the culmination of their 10-year-long effort to rebuild a struggling program. Five years after standing on the podium in Louisville, The Daily Orange looked back on where the five runners and their coaches are now.
Fox’s 13-year tenure as SU’s head coach ended abruptly in 2018, when he left to coach professionally. He stayed through the end of Justyn Knight’s collegiate career before joining the future-Olympian at Reebok Boston Track Club. The team, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, features former SU runners Knight, Hehir, Bennie and Paige Stoner, of the women’s team.
Fox and Smith helped kickstart the Reebok team in July 2018, which competes in running events worldwide and helps the company conduct research and test products.
“Those are my guys,” Fox said of the former SU runners at Reebok. “Justyn’s sort of like a son at this point and a good friend. It’s just a great group of people that came together at the right time.”
Brien Bell took over as head coach of the program following Fox’s departure. He’s currently in his third year, and he also coaches track and field, like Fox. He led the men’s team to an ACC Championship in 2019 and was named the 2019 ACC Coach of the Year.
Fox talks with Bell around “five or six days a week,” and said he’s maintained a tight relationship with the program since he left because he played such a large role in laying its foundation.
“(The program) is in good hands with Bell. He was one of the architects with Fox from day one,” said Chris Getman, an SU runner from 1992-97. “There is no reason to think there are no future national championship titles to come.”
The leading runner for Syracuse in 2015, Knight is a seven-time First-Team All-American, two-time world champion finalist, Team Canada member and a Canadian record holder. Now 24 years old, he’s been with Reebok for two years and is considered one of the top runners in North America.
Knight is expected to run in the Tokyo Olympics next summer and has continued training during the pandemic. At Syracuse, Knight placed fourth in the 2015 national championship, won the 2017 individual national championship and led the Orange to two ACC titles in 2016 and 2017.
“(He) matches right up with some of the best guys in the world,” Fox said. “He’s still young — relatively young — in our sport. I think the sky is still the limit for Justyn. I don’t think he’s come close to reaching his potential.”
Bennie is another member of the 2015 championship team who runs professionally for Fox’s Reebok Club. He’s planning on running a marathon in Arizona with teammate Marty Hehir in December and is working toward the indoor Olympic trials next summer. He’s embraced the opportunity to continue running for his college head coach, he said.
“Most people have five years at most, usually, of being able to train with their college coach,” Bennie said. “The fact that I was able to continue working with (Fox) is just a dream, honestly.”
There is no reason to think there are no future national championship titles to come.
Chris Getman, former SU runner 1992-97
Hehir, who is currently a fourth-year medical student at Thomas Jefferson University, is “running on the side” with Fox’s professional Reebok team. Hehir considers his current lifestyle to be a balance between family — he has two daughters — running and medical school. He relishes the opportunity to continue training with an athlete of Knight’s caliber.
“Training with (Justyn) is great because he raises the level of everyone around him,” Hehir said. “He just has the most youthful energy on the team, always rapping, laughing, keeping everything light.”
Philo Germano, the fourth runner to cross the finish line for SU in 2015, ran professionally for two years with Fox’s group. He put competitive running on hold last fall and moved to Albany for a job. He’s still searching for his future career path. For Germano, not running competitively is a “weird feeling,” but he’s grateful for the way his former teammates shaped him into the person he is today.
Hubbard, an All-ACC performer in 2014 and 2016 who finished 47th in the 2015 championship race, works in medical device sales now. He’s getting married in May and said that many of the Syracuse teammates he ran with remain “best friends to this day.”
The Daily Orange will continue its Five for Five series on Nov. 21, exactly five years after the historic day in Syracuse cross country history, with a look back at the national championship victory.
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