Coach Mike Woods dedicates life to Geneseo with athletics, music, community service

Although well known as the head coach for Geneseo’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams, alumnus Mike Woods ‘69 has also played a role in the local community for multiple decades.

The Oneonta, N.Y. native arrived at Geneseo in 1964 and immediately made a mark on Geneseo history by competing in the first intercollegiate cross-country program as a freshman.

“I like to think of myself as a good athlete in everything,” Woods said. “I felt I could’ve done the baseball team … I was a good tennis player … but running’s always been my first love.”

Woods said he utilizes his diverse athletic experiences in coaching - something he has done for 42 years.

Woods began his coaching career at York High School where he taught English for 33 years. He landed the York teaching position after hearing about the job opportunity in his usual barbershop. In just one day, Woods met a resigning York teacher, inquired about the position with the secretary, met the principal and superintendent and earned the position.

“It’s amazing how fate works in your life … I wouldn’t change a thing,” Woods said.

After coaching for 21 years at York, Woods retired to see his children compete in soccer and swimming. Woods said he couldn’t stay away from coaching cross-country for too long, filling the head coach position at his alma mater in 1992.

Woods also serves as an assistant coach to head coach Dave Prevosti for the men’s and women’s track and field teams. David Mead ‘68 joins Woods as an assistant track and field coach as well as a longtime friend and classmate.

“When you live in a community for 40-something years as I have, you know everybody,” Woods said.

Through befriending many individuals, Woods not only created a national powerhouse of runners but also a connection between cross-country and the Geneseo community.

“The one key thing is that people see us all the time running … These kids aren’t screwing around, because if they were, I would know about it,” he said.

The Geneseo runners participate in annual community service events, like raking leaves to assist the elderly.

Woods noted strong support from the “community elders, so to speak.”

Al “Buzzo” Bruno ‘72, for instance, shared an interest in riding motorcycles with Woods while they both attended Geneseo.

“In fact, he helped me buy my first motorcycle,” Woods said.

He said the duo also jammed together, since they didn’t belong to the same band. Woods, a singer and percussionist, played with EZ Money, an electric band that performed classic rock pieces by Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton and Styx in The Statesman.

Woods continues to play gigs at local venues including the The Village Tavern and Beale Street Cafe, “the primo blues acoustic place in Rochester,” according to Woods. Although he said he loves music, he doesn’t like to play every weekend like he used to because it became draining.

Woods also contributed to the Geneseo area through the Genesee Valley Rotary Camp. The expense-free overnight camp hosts children ages 8 to 21 with developmental disabilities. Woods served as the camp’s director from 1977 to 2005 - 28 years total. Out of all of Woods’ feats, he said he considers time at the camp one of the proudest moments of his life.

Since his first day on campus, Woods said he fell in love with Geneseo.

“I got here and I’ll never forget it. I walked around … and then I looked out and saw that sunset over the valley, and I said, ‘Oh my God, this is the most beautiful place on Earth. I’ve never been to it,’” Woods said.

Since then, Woods has stayed in Geneseo for 43 years and counting.