An interview with Boston University Cross Country Coach Paul “Jody” Spangler

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An interview with Boston University Cross Country Coach Paul “Jody” Spangler

July 24, 2017 - 09:13
Paul Spangler, coaching at The University of Florida, photo by Tim Casey

Paul Spangler is a Class of 1993 Hernando High Graduate who excelled at distance running under coach Ernie Chatman. He won a state title in his Junior year in the 3200 meters and in his senior year was the runner up. Paul ran cross country for the University of Alabama and in his senior year was all SEC in cross country. He then went on to coach track/cross country at Florida State, Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Florida, and now Boston University.

Why did you choose to coach at Boston University?

Boston University has a great training environment. I hope to build upon the success and tradition of Boston University. They have had some really talented individual distance runners.

Q: How did you first get interested in

A: In eighth grade at Parrot Junior High PE, we had to run a lap around the track before starting to play basketball. There was an assortment of basketballs from brand new to ready for retirement. By being first around the track, I had first pick of the basketball and court. With the basketball court the goal was to find a rim that had a net that was in good shape. I would pick a new ball and good court and Matt Manuel, John Miller, and John Sims would join me. Ernie Chatman asked Barbara Manual if she knew anyone who was interested in running cross country. She in turn convinced her son Matt to sign up and he mentioned Paul’s running prowess to coach Chatman. Coach Chatman asked me if I was interested in running cross country, and impressed by being asked by a coach to come out for a sport, I signed up.

Q: When did you first become interested in coaching?

A: I was thinking about being a police officer. I took a class at the University of Alabama in exercise physiology and was able to tie a lot of what I was learning in that course into what I was doing running. I wanted to help other runners develop their abilities, so I sent out letters looking for a graduate assistantship. Florida State offered me a position as an assistant coach, which was even better. At Florida State, I taught classes and earned a Masters during four years at Florida State. I then was offered a head cross country coach position at Virginia Military Institute (VMI). There are a lot of connections between Hernando County and VMI. There is a McKethan Park at VMI, the result of a gift by prominent Hernando County resident Alfred A. McKethan, who attended VMI for two years before finishing his schooling at the University of Florida. Many residents of Hernando County have attended VMI over its hundred plus years in existence. I spent 9 and half years as the head of cross country before moving on to the University of Florida. At the University of Florida, I was in charge of the distance program and an assistant coach. I spent five and half years at Florida. I was on the staff for five national titles, some were indoor and some were outdoor; all of the titles were for the men’s program. White at the University of Florida, I was voted Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year in the SEC by a poll of my peers.

Q: Have you ever run a marathon?

A: No, I have not. A marathon is different from the races that I normally run. At one point, I attempted to qualify for the Olympics and was on pace to make the Olympics, but hit a wall at the twentieth or so mile. At that pace you are putting a tremendous strain on your body running long distance.

Q: Did you keep in touch with Coach

I kept in touch with Ernie Chatman throughout my career. While I was coaching at the University of Florida, Ernie sat on the jury of appeal for the 2013 SEC Cross Country Championship. The jury of appeal is a 3 person body who rules on the protests filed about the race.