One look at Geneseo cross-country head coach Mike Woods' office will show you how the college is, according to Woods, "engrained into my psyche."
The walls are plastered with championship plaques, newspaper clippings, pictures of past teams and numerous paper plate awards. His desk is more of the same, complete with a mock Wheaties championship box. The office more closely resembles a loosely organized museum than anything else. With a bachelor's and master's degree from Geneseo and going on 18 years of coaching, Woods has had a lot of time to collect memorabilia.
Woods began his career as a runner at Oneonta High School. Though he wanted to play football, Woods said he weighed about 100 pounds as a freshman so he decided to become a distance runner instead.
After a disappointing first season, Woods put in the miles during the summer to return as the school's top runner. This experience exemplifies his coaching philosophy: "The harder you work the better you get." Woods described himself as someone motivated by results, and to see his athletes improve as a result of hard work is what he said he loves about coaching.
After graduating from Geneseo in 1969 and completing his master's degree in 1978, Woods spent 21 years as an English teacher and cross-country coach for York Central High School before he retired, which allowed him to watch his own children compete.
Woods passed his passion for competing and teaching on to his children, as they are both teachers and swimming coaches. Coaching for Geneseo had always been in the back of Woods' mind, so when he was offered the job, he accepted after some deliberation and prodding from his family.
Among the ups and downs of his coaching career, an undeniable highlight was in 2005 when the Lady Knights' cross-country team had an NCAA championship season. Woods also received the National Coach of the Year honors the same year. On the other side of the coin, Woods recalled 2007, when the women had a chance to win the NCAA championship had it not been for an unfortunate pileup midway through the race.
Besides coaching, Woods is a man of many interests. He loves golf and performances of Shakespeare. He still sings in a band formed with other Geneseo alumni in 1969. Called The Easymoney Band, they cover songs by artists like Eric Clapton and the Grateful Dead and would probably feel right at home in the basement of Sundance Books.
If one thing is taken away from a meeting with coach Woods, it should be his love for Geneseo. He spoke with great pride about the type of athletes and students Geneseo brings to him on a daily basis, students with dedication who want to succeed.
"When a place gets into your dreams, you know it's part of you," said Woods, who will continue working on making his team's dreams of success a reality throughout this season and many more to come.