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New JMU cross country and track & field director Delethea Quarles joined the Dukes this season and has been working with the team throughout the 2022 cross country season. 

Imagine waking up to the sunrise over the mountains every morning and taking walks on a track as the sun sets. For Delethea Quarles, this is one of the many things that’s made her time at JMU well worth it.

JMU announced Aug. 26 that Quarles, the former University of South Carolina cross country coach, would assume a new position at JMU’s director of track & field and cross country. Quarles replaces Ta’ Frias, who filled the position for seven years.

Quarles spent this season overseeing the entire program, training and administrative paperwork as well as coaching the high jump and all sprints and relays.

Quarles made her first move with the Dukes by hiring cross-country coach Rebekah Ricksecker in September, replacing former coach Dave Rinker. The position was vacant over the summer, and the team was in need of a coach.

“We’ve been really waiting for that, and so she was able to give us that, which was really a needed thing for the group of athletes,” senior runner Laura Webb said.

Quarles began her track & field career as a student-athlete at Liberty University in 1987.

“It was the best thing for me at that time in my life,” Quarles said. “The things that Liberty stands for are things that really modeled my life … the same kind of support system and beliefs that I grew up on.”

Quarles enters JMU after coaching for multiple decades. She began as an assistant head coach at Liberty in 1989. During her eight-year tenure, Quarles’ team earned three straight Big South Conference outdoor titles from 1994-96.

She moved to South Carolina the summer before its 1998 season as an assistant coach and helped lead the team to 55 top-25 team finishes in NCAA competitions. She was promoted to assistant head coach in 2005. Her role has also led the women’s track & field team to three SEC Outdoor Championships, each coming three years apart: 1999, 2002 and 2005.

“I feel like the sport is the same no matter where you go,” Quarles said. “Coming from a Power 5, there’s a lot of intensity and fast pace … so here the fast pace is not necessarily the same, which is refreshing.”

Quarles’ have been just as successful for Team USA as at South Carolina. Serving as head coach of Team USA three times on an international stage and as a member of the team eight times, she helped the team earn countless medals, including a meet record of 48 medals during the Pan Am Juniors in 2007.

Throughout this season with JMU, Quarles primarily coached sprints and jumps while focusing on getting to know all athletes on the team, Webb said.

“I feel like she really wants to meet us where we’re at and help all of us individually achieve our goals,” Webb said, “which I think is really exciting, really important as a coach, too.”

Quarles wants to make “camaraderie” a valued concept among the team and ensure they’re aware they are their “sister’s keeper,” always having one another’s back.

“It’s great when everyone is focused enough to achieve something great,” Quarles said. “Some people say two is better than one, but having a team that’s on the same page, good relationships, and a healthy environment is best.”

This season, Quarles feels the team has accomplished its goal of operating as one unit, something the runners have embraced, she said. Senior runner Miranda Stanhope has placed in the top 10 in four meets this season, and the team has finished in the top 50% of the standings in four of five meets.

“My motto is, this is our team. And whatever we do, we do it together,” Quarles said.

This season, she’s shifted the focus of the team from wanting to win to putting their best into practice every day, Stanhope said.

“That’s how you become a champion,” Stanhope said. “It’s like we need to be good every day and we need to be doing our best every time we show up.”

Having a coach as experienced as Quarles is great for the program, Webb said. Having coached at much higher levels than JMU in the past will also start to lead the program in a direction it wants to go, she added.

Stanhope feels the mindset and skills Coach Dee acquired from coaching in a higher conference can benefit the team.

“She just seems very knowledgeable,” Stanhope said. “I think she’s also a very determined coach. She does have big goals, and she always says she loves to win.”

The team has continued to stay focused on their goals and have “risen above” the change, Quarles said. She said the team stayed the course amid the change at the top.

Since day one, Quarles made it her goal to know every member of the team. That includes all 16 members of the cross country team and all 45 members of the track and field team.

On her first day, she had everyone on the team take turns saying their name, where they’re from and what their goals are, Webb said.

“She’s definitely made it clear that she cares about us as more than athletes but people,” Webb said. “She just cares about me as a whole person and not just, you know, the athletic side of me … She wants to get to know all of us and support us in all those ways.”

Throughout the season, Quarles has ensured each runner is carrying out their goals outside of running like academics, and finding the healthy balance that is necessary, Stanhope said. Quarles is “really individualized,” Stanhope said, and realizes each runner’s performance can also be impacted by other things going on in their lives.

While the runners’ names haven’t been announced by Quarles yet, JMU will compete in the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships on Friday, Nov. 11.

The transition for Quarles has been helped by the diligence the team carries to the track every day, which, she said, is “all you can ask for from your team” as a coach. And moving into the future, she wants to build national prominence at JMU.

“I feel like we have the people here that are capable of doing that,” Quarles said, “so we just have to keep building on what we have.”

Contact Zach Mendenhall at mendenzl@dukes.jmu.edu. For more cross country coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.