Top runners leave Queen’s cross country after controversy over coach's firing

Cross country runners Brogan MacDougall and Marley Beckett depart team following Steve Boyd's departure

Cross country runner Brogan MacDougall (left).
Photo: 
Cross country runner Marley Beckett (right).
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The Queen’s cross-country team was dealt a blow last week when two of the top performers on the women’s team announced they will be running elsewhere next year. 
 
The news follows an extremely successful season for the women’s cross-country team, who won their first-ever national title last November. While runner Brogan MacDougall has confirmed to The Journal that her decision to transfer was tied to the firing of former head coach Steve Boyd, Marley Beckett has not answered The Journal’s request for comment.
 
Athletics and Recreation has not responded to a request for comment.
 
MacDougall, who will be transferring to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a renowned NCAA Division 1 cross country school, spoke with The Journal about her decision to quit.
 
“I would have never considered transferring if [Boyd] hadn't been fired,” she said.
 
Boyd was dismissed from Queen’s in February in the wake of complaints from Guelph University alumni regarding his comments about the disgraced former Guelph running coach, Dave Scott-Thomas. Former interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Tom Harris also cited Boyd’s alleged failure “to heed repeated warnings from the administration to stop his reckless social media activities” in a February statement.
 
“The only reason I came to Queen’s originally was to be coached by him, so I don't know, there was not really anything keeping me here anymore,” MacDougall said. 
 
MacDougall had been coached by Boyd for seven years, beginning in high school when she ran for Boyd’s club, Physi-Kult.
 
“I've only ever had positive interactions with [Boyd],” she said. “He's only ever kind and he cares about his athletes so much, like, it's hard to see people judging him based off of a few comments he made on the internet.”
 
MacDougall also said Boyd’s abrupt firing had implications on her academics and mental health. 
 
“If you were to find my classmates, they'll tell you I was breaking down all the time in class. It was pretty embarrassing because I'm not a super emotional person, usually.”
 
Although sad that her time at Queen’s came to an abrupt end, MacDougall expects that the University of Wisconsin-Madison will be a good fit.  
 
As a geological engineering student, finding a university that offered her program was the most important factor. The University of Wisconsin-Madison also has one of the best cross country programs in the NCAA, holding seven national championships.
 
Marley Beckett has transferred to the University of British Columbia, where she will work with former Gaels Assistant Coach Brant Stachel, who heads their running program. 
 
While the transfers don’t necessarily come as a surprise to the team, it was still saddening. Team co-captain Miles Brackenbury told The Journal that while MacDougall and Beckett will be greatly missed, the team supports their decision.
 
“These are exceptional people, athletes, and students," he said. "Most importantly, they are like family. They have made the best decision and they are going to do great things in the future.”
 
In an interview with The Journal, Steve Boyd said he “was not surprised at all” by the transfers of his former athletes and that he had been guiding MacDougall through the transfer process.
 
“She was pretty determined from early on to leave Queen’s altogether, and, as the only coach she’s ever had, I owed it to her to make sure she got good coaching wherever she ended up.”
 
Brackenbury, along with Assistant Coaches Steve Weiler and Leslie Sexton, said they do not expect to see any more transfers over the off-season, but think it’s more than likely that many runners could eventually quit Queen’s cross country and run for Boyd at Physi-Kult instead. 
 
According to Weiler and Sexton, the future of the team remains uncertain. They told The Journal they have not heard anything about renewing their contracts, which expire at the end of April. If Boyd is not reinstated, they plan to join many of the runners at Physi-Kult.
 
Weiler and Sexton said they are still optimistic that Boyd can be reinstated as head coach, and that the team can continue its success next season. 
 
“We remain hopeful that [Boyd] can be reinstated through one form or another. We’re aware that current Queen’s faculty are in talks with the principal and the provost. […] So, we still have some hope there.”  
 
However, without Boyd’s reinstatement, the two assistant coaches predict that years of progress for Queen’s cross country could be undone. 
 
“The team wants Boyd reinstated and many athletes have stated they will not run for Queen's unless this happens. […] The impact of Boyd's firing will be far more than two athletes not competing for Queen's in 2020-2021. […] In short, if he's not reinstated, this will destroy the team.”
 

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