Cross Country

Syracuse men’s cross country’s Philo Germano turns setback into motivation

Courtesy of SU Athletics

Philo Germano is one of Syracuse's top runners this year. He worked his way up by redshirting and battling through an injury.

As Syracuse’s men’s cross country team headed out of Manley Field House for an afternoon run, a group of runners gravitated toward Philo Germano, who leapt and grazed the ceiling, energized for another workout.

With three years of college experience under his belt, Germano knows how to conduct himself. He’s been redshirted, injured and victorious — playing a key role in bringing a national championship to Syracuse. An Albany, New York native, Germano has been running for 10 years. It was during his time in the state capital that he discovered his love for the sport.

“I didn’t think I was going to go to school for running until I made the state meet for cross country my junior year,” Germano said. “After that, I was like, ‘Alright. This is pretty cool. I can see myself doing this.’”

So could Syracuse head coach Chris Fox. That’s why he offered Germano the opportunity to walk on to both the men’s cross country and track and field teams. Fox said Germano had solid times in cross country but not track because he wasn’t “totally into the sport yet.”

“We knew there was great potential in cross country,” Fox said.

Germano redshirted his first collegiate season, 2013. That year rolled into the next, and he struggled finding a contributing role. Undeterred, Germano had his sights set on his second season of cross country eligibility. In the spring of his sophomore year, Germano tore a ligament in his foot. Being sidelined for an extended period twiddled with his emotions.

“I still hung out with the guys, but when it came to the meets it got pretty lonely,” Germano said. “I wanted to be out there, so that was motivating to get better for the next year.”

With the help of his parents, he laid down the roadmap for “small increments of improvement.” Phase one of his comeback began in the summer after his sophomore year, when he stayed on campus to train with teammates. He immersed himself in coming back as a contributor.

Mass consumption of dining hall food was replaced by healthier alternatives such as yogurt, granola and oatmeal. Early nights and early mornings became the standard for sleep.

“(My injury) made me realize that this doesn’t last forever and I’m not invincible,” he said.

That resurgence kicked off at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational, an elite competition Germano had qualified for only months after sustaining his injury. He logged a time of 24:24.6, good for 89th place.

“He sat down and realized that that’s not what he wanted to be,” teammate Colin Bennie said. “That’s not what he needed to be.”

Germano returned to campus with a chip on his shoulder and the Orange noticed his increased tenacity. He zeroed in on the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships — his next incremental objective.

Aching for the chance to contribute, Germano got the nod from Fox for the big race. As a starter, he finished 15th (24:02.7) in the ACC meet, improving 22 seconds from the Wisconsin race just two weeks prior.

He sniffed success at the ACC Championships and chased it relentlessly. On Nov. 21, 2015, he raced at the NCAA Championship in Louisville, Kentucky. Germano overtook 14 runners in the final 2,000 meters of the race, seizing All-American status and helping SU win the national title.

Walk-on in 2013. National champion in 2015. Last season was the culmination of years of waiting his turn and a battle back from injury. With five more seasons between cross country and track still unwritten, Germano has a chance to take his career even further.

“He’s a guy that can be a three-, four-, five-time All-American,” Fox said. “He’s a real runner now. He’s a pro.”


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