By Dan Guttenplan
---- — Three months after graduating from Bates College, Lindsay Cullen plans to return to college.
Cullen, a Newburyport High alumna, recently accepted a position as an assistant coach with the Dickinson College cross-country and track and field teams on the heels of her own cross-country and track career at Bates. Cullen will report to the Carlisle, Pa., campus before the start of cross-country preseason, which is set for Aug. 17.
“I’d like to get into college coaching, and I’m looking more Division 3 because that’s the level I competed at,” Cullen said. “I like the way most Division 3 schools mix athletics and academics. It’s not an athlete’s entire life, like it might be at a state school or university.”
Cullen was a distance specialist at Newburyport High and Bates College. She had a late start in comparison to most collegiate runners due to her dance background. She ran track for the first time as a sophomore in high school. After she flashed some potential in the middle distance events, Newburyport coach Don Hennigar encouraged her to come out for the cross-country team in the fall. By her senior year, she was the top runner on the girls team.
“It wasn’t something I expected,” Cullen said. “I was a dancer at the time, but I quit dance once I saw what I could do running. I made a big decision, but I think it turned out to be the right one.”
Cullen continued to improve at Bates, eventually working her way onto the school’s list of top-10 performances in the 3,000 and 5,000. She was a captain as a senior, filling the role admirably, according to Bates coach Jay Hartshorn.
“She has a really good passion for the sport,” Hartshorn said. “I think she has a really good understanding of team dynamics, how the events fit together, how teams fit together. She’s able to look outside herself and her own performance and see what makes the whole team work.”
Cullen developed an interest in coaching early in her college experience. She long considered becoming a high school teacher and coach, but by her senior year, decided to start her coaching career at the college level.
“I want coaching to be most of what I do for a profession,” Cullen said. “I talked to (Hartshorn) about the path she decided to take, and it sounded appealing to me.”
As part of Cullen’s employment package with Dickinson, she will receive free room and board just off campus. She will live with an assistant coach from another sports team.
“I’m looking at graduate schools,” Cullen said. “So this year will be about preparing for the (Graduate Record Exam) and taking that. Graduate school is something in my future. It depends on how well it works out at Dickinson, and if I stay for another year. Most assistant coaching positions last one or two years.”
Cullen’s transition to coaching does not necessarily mean the end of her running career. She recently placed third among women at the Flag Day 5K in Newburyport. Another perk of the Dickinson job is that she will be able to go on training runs with the team.
“I think she’ll probably dabble in road races,” Hartshorn said. “I think she’s ready for the change of running with a team when it’s appropriate. The thing with Lindsay is her training was different than any other distance runner I’ve had because she had a really delicate body. She was one of the toughest competitors we’ve had, but she had to do a lot of cross-training to stay healthy. I think she’s sick of cross-training, so she’ll see how much running she can do and stay healthy.”