The Next Step for Eric Cummings

Name: Eric J. Cummings
Years coaching track and field: 17 years (97-02 Byrnes) (06-17 Riverside)
Years coaching XC: 21 years (97-01 Byrnes) (02-05 SMC) (06-present Riverside)
High School and college: Springstead HS in Spring Hill, Fla. USCS (now Upstate) 
Family: Karen wife of 20 years this June
Alex-15 and freshman at Riverside. 17:50 XC and letter winner for soccer. 
Lucas-12 and seventh grader at D.R. Hill Middle School. Member of CFC 04 team and newly member of the James F. Byrnes Rebel Regiment. 
Jon-10 and fourth grader at Lyman Elementary. Member of CFC 06 Elite and recent winner of the Lyman Elementary Superintendent Citizenship Award. 

How did you and your family come to the decision to end coaching track and field?
I need to start this off with this statement...'I am not stepping away from cross country, just track and field!'

What is your status for cross country?
Cross country at Riverside will still see me as the Coach! We had sign ups this past Monday and had 50 first time runners come out to the meeting. I will be over cross country until at least my youngest graduates. I get to spend the next three seasons with my oldest son. I see us possibly going beyond 200 runners this fall. 

How did you and your family come to the decision to end coaching track and field? 

My passion has always been cross country. Even running in high school, I enjoyed cross country so much more. When I went to college, I liked the fact of only running cross country while at USC-S (now USC Upstate). We have been talking for awhile about stepping away, and with my oldest playing High school soccer for Riverside, my heart has been to be with him. I only have three more years before he heads off to college. My middle son made the marching band at Byrnes as a rising 8th grader and also plays club soccer in the spring. My youngest son plays club soccer year round for CFC (Carolina Football Club) and I was missing too much of their stuff. Time is running out!

Cummings family finds formula that's working at Riverside

What has been going through your mind this last season? 
Keeping my runners healthy, and on target for the state championship. While getting to see my sons play soccer and be at their school events. It has been hard this spring, but everything seemed to work itself out. My time was split and it was not fair to my sons, my wife, or my athletes and coaching staff. 
Do you see yourself returning after your kids finish college and sports? 
My youngest has eight years until he graduates (he will run for me), so after that point, I will have right at 30 years in. We will have to see.

How much strain and wear and tear has the sport put on you and your family? 
My wife is basically a single mom during sports seasons. She is dropping kids off and picking them up and we try to be sure we get to equal amount of games for each boy. I could not do what I do without her. The boys know I love them, but they want me at their stuff and that will take priority over coaching as I move forward. I am exhausted between track and soccer and teaching and life! It is time for a break and to recharge with my family. 

How is the team looking this weekend? 
We qualified one boy in the 3200 and 11 scoring chances on the girls side. The girls are fit, healthy and determined for this weekend. All but 2 of the racers are seniors, so we will see how the Meet pans out. I feel it will be a battle between a few teams for the state title. Would love to go out on top, but won't be disappointed with the outcome, because I have a great group of kids to close out this chapter of my Life with!

How did the athletes respond when you told them? 
They have known most of this season about it. A big chunk were seniors and the most asked question was, "you still coaching cross, right?!" Some believe I am not stepping away. Some it will hit them with this article. Some may even be glad to see a new coach in place. 

How do you see Eric Cummings remembered in the Riverside program and state? 
I will still be in the Riverside system with cross country, but I hope I am remembered for building a program of over 180 athletes in both sports and for holding our athletes accountable for their academics, character, training and racing. For trying to bring the best out in each kid, whether it was a 5:02 female miler or a nine foot male long jumper. I want the kids to remember the fun they had in the Warrior program. I want them to be able to tell stories of these years with their kids, like I do about Coach Hudson and my high school career. 

What level do you see you leaving the Riverside program in in the state?
Riverside TF is currently one of the top female teams in the state. The boys are always competing. The program is setup to succeed. Numbers and interest are there, facility is good to go. 

Do you see yourself still coming to some meets? 
I still have one more year as the SCTCCCA president and will be in charge of the Coaches Classic in the spring and next spring's State TF Championship. I have also been asked to come and time some meets for some schools as well. I will be able to pick and chose and sleep in on Saturdays (only if we don't have soccer games)!

How will distance be coached in the spring?
That will be up to the new coaching staff. I will have off season cross country workouts setup for anyone not running track or doing spring sports. I will be helping out with the HS soccer team and will keep the kids focused on their fall season if cross. 

What is your biggest track and field memory? 
I have a few: in no particular order....
Girls 4x8 battles with Spartanburg and Coach Rice. 
Cam Hayes breaking 4:30 at Taco Bell. 
Wright brothers and their cousin, watching any of their 4x1 races for Byrnes. 
Sweeping region title with Riverside for the first time. 
Cate Ambrose winning my first individual title. 
Girls 4x800 relay last spring winning my first relay title in a state best time (Ambrose, Abigail Smith, Mikie Harris, and Rachel Lentz).
Florida Relay and FSU Invite trips with RHS team.