Three years ago, Nick Ciaccia had the opportunity to help hire his cross country coach, Josey Weaver. Now during his final season in the sport, Ciaccia is experiencing the full measure of Weaver’s impact on him as a runner.
This morning Ciaccia and his East Carolina squad will compete in the American Athletic Conference meet in New Orleans, and Ciaccia will approach the starting line hoping to top his last outing — a first-place finish and personal record at the ECU Pirate Invitational.
For Weaver, in his third season coaching the team, the conference meet presents a prime opportunity for veterans and younger runners alike to step up.
“We’re primed to get after it on the men’s side,” Weaver said. “We’re not the favorites by any means, but winning the meet is the goal. I’ve always thought if you’re lining up to finish fourth, or second, or fifth, or sixth, that’s not the right mentality.”
When Weaver took the cross country position before Ciaccia’s second season, Ciaccia quickly began to benefit from his new coach’s intense, personalized training regimen.
“He knows that certain people, the way their bodies are, they can handle more volume,” said Ciaccia, who was part of a group of Pirates who met Weaver and gave feedback when he was interviewing. “The same training doesn’t work for everyone. That has made a difference for me.”
The change in Ciaccia as an athlete during his time as a Pirate has certainly been one of the significant aspects of his ECU career, but just as important are the family ties that have only grown deeper in Greenville. He was initially drawn to Greenville because of his older sister Lexi, a Pirate, but when he arrived on campus as a freshman his twin brother Andrew was beginning his collegiate running career at the University of Toledo. It was the first time the twins had lived apart.
Before long, Andrew was comparing his experience with that of his brother and realizing that he missed the indoor and outdoor track teams that Toledo doesn’t field. He also like the idea of running alongside his brother again, like the twins had at Reynolds High School.
By their sophomore year the Ciaccias were both wearing Pirate purple. Today, along with graduate transfer Alex Brunson, they are two of the three seniors on a team that also features plenty of young talent.
The exceptional chemistry on the team, which belies the image of running as a solitary pursuit, is far from accidental. Not only do the older runners work to instill a positive team culture in their younger teammates, Weaver is an intentional recruiter as well. He wants the team to keep getting faster, but talent and speed alone aren’t enough.
“When Coach Weaver got here turned it around,” Ciaccia said. “He just built a very close knit group of guys. He is particular about bringing in the best guys who work with this team. He’s basically built the success that we’ve had.”
Ciaccia, who will be back at ECU next season for track but will exhaust his cross country eligibility this fall, took the summer training Weaver designed for him seriously, even though he was home in Winston-Salem with only Andrew to pace him. He arrived in New Orleans with his own building project: Topping his 14th place conference finish last season and besting the 24:34.46 time he clocked at the Pirate Invitational two weeks ago.
“We don’t come to these meets to just place, we come down here to win it,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition. Tulsa is always a powerhouse school. I hope to build on my performance from last year and go with that. Coming off the individual win at Lake Kristi is a huge confidence booster, being able to run a lifetime PR on a course that is similar to the one down here at New Orleans.”