ANTIGONISH, NS – Veteran head coach Bernie Chisholm, who has guided both the cross country and track & field programs at StFX University for the past 31 years, has announced that he will head into his final season of coaching this fall, as retirement looms on the horizon.
"The past 31 years coaching at StFX has been a very special time for me, however, after a lot of thought, I have decided that this coming year will be my last," notes Chisholm.
Director of Athletics & Recreation Leo MacPherson has nothing but praise for the long-time coach, stating, "It is difficult to find the words to fully express how grateful we are for all that Coach Bernie Chisholm has done for StFX Athletics. His legacy of greatness speaks for itself with the championship-caliber programs he has established, and the high quality student-athletes he has brought to our university. He has been a role model to me, and to the many student-athletes who were fortunate enough to have him as their coach, friend and mentor."
Coach Chisholm has led the StFX cross country program to 17 AUS championship titles (nine men's and eight women's), including most recently the men's title for the last consecutive six years, and both team titles in 2012. Chisholm guided the X-Men cross country team to their first U SPORTS (formerly CIS) national team medal in 2008 as they won silver, and followed up with a national bronze in 2010. He also led the X-Women to their first medal on the national stage with a bronze in 2007. He led the X-Men track & field team to their first and only AUS championship title in 2013-14.
In addition to his several years of international and national coaching experience, Coach Chisholm has been recognized with several honours, including 18 AUS cross country Coach of the Year awards (10 men's and eight women's) and three AUS track & field Coach of the Year awards (one men's and two women's). He is a member of the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame, along with being inducted to the StFX Sport Hall of Fame in 2014. He also coached at the high school level for 35 years, winning 57 provincial titles.
A familiar face will be joining the cross country and track & field coaching staff this fall alongside Chisholm in his final year. Three-time Olympian Eric Gillis, a product of the StFX program himself, and a former athlete of Coach Chisholm, will be an assistant coach. A native of Antigonish, N.S., Gillis will be returning to his hometown to join the coaching staff. Upon Chisholm's retirement, the succession plan will have Gillis take over the cross country and track & field programs as the new head coach.
Coach Chisholm comments, "I am pleased to see the development of both our cross country and track programs, and very encouraged to see someone like Eric Gillis come in to continue to grow our sport. I am confident that Eric will be well received and will be very successful."
Likewise, Gillis has positive comments for his mentor and fellow member of the StFX Sports Hall of Fame, noting, "Bernie has built a quality program at X, one that has reached new and impressive heights in recent memory. I look forward to working with and learning from Coach to continue moving his tradition of excellence forward."
Gillis, a three-time Olympian and the Canadian marathon champion, will continue his own personal training while coaching at StFX. At the Rio Olympics in 2016, he finished an incredible 10th overall in the marathon, posting Canada's best result in the event since 1976. He previously competed in the marathon at the 2012 Olympics in London, and in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the 10,000m event.
A 2004 Human Kinetics graduate of StFX, Gillis competed for the X-Men for five seasons, culminating in an individual U SPORTS (then CIS) individual national championship victory in 2003, when he was also named the national runner of the year. A four-time All-Canadian athlete and two-time StFX male athlete of the year, Gillis was recently inducted into the StFX Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
He is looking forward to this new opportunity, commenting, "I am grateful to StFX Athletics and Leo MacPherson for this opportunity to start a new and exciting chapter at my hometown alma mater."
MacPherson notes that he is thrilled to welcome Eric Gillis back to StFX in a coaching capacity. "He has accomplished a great deal in his sport, and will now focus his efforts on coaching and building on the success of Coach Chisholm. His passion, dedication and commitment to excellence will serve him well in this new role. Our cross country and track & field teams' future is in good hands."