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NU track and field coach earns position with US Paralympics

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NU track and field coach earns position with US Paralympics

Chris Butler

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After 21 years of coaching, Northeastern’s cross-country and track and field head coach Cathrine Erickson is leaving the NU community, taking a new position as the director of track and field for the United States Paralympics.

Following a six-month interview process, Erickson received the call saying that she would take over for Cathy Sellers as director of the U.S. Paralympic team. The Paralympics is a division of the United States Olympic Committee that offers opportunities for athletes who are physically disabled to compete at the elite level. Participants range from athletes in wheelchairs to those who are visually impaired.

Over her past five years as head coach, Northeastern has won 17 championships between cross-country and indoor and outdoor track. With the New England Championships being Erickson’s final meet as head coach, the team sent her out on a high note, with both the men’s and women’s teams taking first place.

“She turned around our program to places it’s really never been before,” said third-year distance runner Marc Rienas. “She was the reason our program became super successful.”

Erickson explained that the strong relationships she has with her athletes made her final meet very emotional. Despite an emotional departure, she is excited for her new opportunity.

“I have some colleagues who have been coaches on some of the Paralympic teams, as well,” Erickson said. “Their feedback has been that this is one of the most rewarding experiences that they’ve ever had.”

Replacing Erickson as head coach will be Tramaine Shaw, the assistant coach for short sprints, hurdles and horizontal jumps.

“We’re getting ready to keep moving forward,” Shaw said. “[I’m] just honored to be able to step in and build off of what she’s already started.”

In her new position as high performance director, Erickson will help assemblea group of athletes who will compete as the U.S. Paralympic track and field team and help coaches train their athletes.

“What I’ve been able to do at Northeastern, with the help of a phenomenal staff and a phenomenal group of athletes, is strategically build a championship program,” Erickson said. “And that’s the skillset, I think, that’s what they were looking for.”

Erickson began her track and field career as a high school athlete, throwing shot put and discus. She then moved on to the collegiate level and was a two-season Division I athlete at Florida State University, competing in basketball and track and field.

Over the past 21 years, she has coached for several collegiate Division I track and field teams, getting her start at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1996. Erickson then served as assistant coach at University of Mississippi and Clemson University and, more recently, a five-year stint as associate head coach at Harvard University prior to Northeastern.

She also has prior experience with elite athletes, working as the development coordinator for the women’s hammer event with USA Track and Field from 2004 to 2009.

Erickson’s new job is a big transition, moving out of coaching and into an executive position. She will also be working with disabled athletes for the first time.

“Paralympic athletes versus Olympic athletes, there’s no difference,” she said. “Regardless of where you’re at, your goal is still to support the athlete to achieve their goals. And our goals at the USOC will be to help people get to the podium and win medals.”

Although her departure is in the middle of the indoor track and field season, operations will continue normally under Shaw’s direction.

“I am looking forward to the inspiration that I will receive and that I can also give to the athletes,” Erickson said. “This was the next thing in my career.”

Erickson will assume her new role at the United States Olympic Committee in April.

“There’s still a lot for me to uncover, but we as a country have many very, very talented athletes with phenomenal stories,” Erickson said. “It’s just a great time to be a part of the program.”

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NU track and field coach earns position with US Paralympics