By RYAN MCCRACKEN on August 28, 2020.
When Bill Corcoran moved from Grande Prairie to Medicine Hat last winter, he knew he wanted to be part of the region’s rich cross-country community – but he had no idea he’d become one of its central figures.
Medicine Hat College announced Thursday that Corcoran — who served as coach of Grande Prairie Regional College’s cross-country program for 29 seasons – has been hired as head coach of the school’s brand new cross-country running program.
“I knew when we moved here I wanted to get involved in the running community and I thought it was just a great coincidence that they were starting an ACAC program,” said Corcoran, who retired from GPRC last August and moved to Medicine Hat in December.
“My wife is from here and she actually ran cross-country at Medicine Hat College, if you go back far enough. It was 1981. She grew up here and she has family here. It’s a nice place to retire.”
Rattlers manager of sport and wellness Terry Ballard said in a Thursday release that the school is “very fortunate to have someone like Bill” join the new program.
“I’m really excited about the future,” Ballard added in the release.
Corcoran says joining the program on the ground floor was a big reason for why he decided to come out of retirement for the role. He began his coaching career when GPRC first opened its cross-country program in 1991 and went on to take the women’s team to Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association gold on two occasions while helping three individual athletes top the national podium as well.
“It was kind of an interesting start to it. When I got to Grande Prairie I was kind of still a competitive athlete of sorts and the fellow who was coaching there that year said ‘Do you want to help out?’ and I said ‘Sure, just give me a few people to run with,'” said Corcoran. “He ended up leaving after the first season, so when he left I guess I inherited the head coaching position and kind of went from there.”
Corcoran says it took a while for the cross-country program to gain traction at GPRC, but that likely won’t be a concern given the amount of running talent developed each year at local high schools.
“We struggled even to get the minimum number of athletes to get a women’s team (early at GPRC)… then over time it grew,” he said.
“I know (Eagle Butte’s) Darryl Smith quite well, and then Sean Freeman (Bulldogs) and I go back a little ways too, so I’ve sort of made some contacts there. But I’ll need to make some more contacts in the high school community and the local running community. Hopefully over the next month or so I can get out and start meeting a lot of the movers and shakers in the running community here.”
While COVID-19 has placed the Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference’s fall season on hold, Corcoran still has a challenge in front of him in regard to recruiting a team with the school year just weeks away from starting. But he has a plan for that.
“One of the things I learned in Grande Prairie is you can make a lot of good athletes,” he said. “One of the things I’m really proud of, is we won nationals in 2014 with six young women who all went to high school in Grande Prairie. Only two of the six had run in high school, a lot of them came from other sports.”
The road back to that national podium starts immediately for Corcoran and his new team – and it starts from scratch.
“It was really gratifying to build a program at Grande Prairie, but after 25 or 30 years you’re kind of looking for a new challenge,” he said. “I’d just like to thank Medicine Hat College for the opportunity and I’m just really excited about this new challenge and trying to get it going.”