Thursday, January 17, 2013


Steve Lynn: Coach, Husband, Father, Friend

Steve Lynn
I was an inexperienced sprints coach at the University of Oregon when I met Steve Lynn. I had traveled to Ames, Iowa to compete in a track meet with a young and talented 4x400m relay squad. My boss at the time told me that if I was traveling all the way to Iowa to compete in a track meet, make sure we got into the fast section. Being inexperienced, I entered my relay with a fast time we hadn't yet run. This was common practice at the time, but my entry was particularly ambitious. By the time I arrived at the track for the meet, there was much consternation among some of the other coaches- some of the top coaches in the country, that some of the teams (Oregon, among others) had entered the meet with bogus marks. I knew I had screwed up and feared being embarrassed in front of respected coaches I looked up to and tried to emulate. Enter Steve Lynn. Steve was the meet director and long time head coach at Iowa State University and had a reputation for staging some of the best indoor track meets in the world. Knowing he had a situation on his hands, Steve called all the relay coaches over for an impromptu meeting. He was well aware of who had entered their teams with bogus marks, but instead of embarrassing anyone, he said very calmly: "Look men; we have some great relay teams here today and we're all here to run fast times. Trust me when I tell you I'm going to set up these heats fairly and you'll all have an opportunity to run fast." He then pointed to each coach and patiently asked the same question, "What has your team run this year?" We all answered honestly and he wrote down the new times. "The new heat sheets will be posted in 15 minutes." And that was that. No public humiliation. In the end, we ran the fastest relay times in the country that day. I also learned a lot from Steve Lynn that day. 

Steve, K'Lynn, Erica & Scott
Years later when I arrived on the UNI campus as the new head track and field coach, I had come a long way but I still had a lot to learn. One of the first people that reached out to me was Steve Lynn. His son, Scott was a hurdler on the team and Steve asked if he could help with my transition in any way and if he could be a volunteer coach for me. Steve was a wealth of information and had coached some of the best athletes in the world. Steve was regarded as one of the best hurdles coaches in the country, so I was thrilled to have him on my staff. When I needed to hire an assistant coach, Steve suggested I consider hiring renown throws coach, Dan O'mara. Dan and Steve were close friends after working together for years at Iowa State. Steve facilitated my hiring of Dan O'mara- the best hiring decision of my career.

For my first two years, Steve was a strong and well-reasoned presence in my program. He had more experience than all of the paid coaches put together and could have out-shined all of us at any moment. But it's not who he was. He was there to coach his son and to help guide me in building the UNI program. In his own even-handed way, Steve looked out for all of us. Spend five minutes with him and you understand why everyone loves him. Steve cares about every person in his life. I've never seen anything like it. Every kid Steve worked with was equally important to him and in return, the kids loved him deeply. I don't care who you were or what your background was; if your heart was in the right place, Steve had time for you. He was all about being good and fair and decent and enjoying the process. I'm sure there were times when he knew I was making poor decisions, but he never criticized. Like any great mentor, he was quick to point out when I got it right and wise enough to let me fail on occasion in order to grow. I always appreciated that.

Chances are if you're reading this, you already know Steve left us much too soon this week. He died Wednesday, January 16th, at the age of 61. He meant more to the UNI program than most people probably realize. For two years Steve commuted the 90 miles from Ames, to volunteer with our program. Even after Scott graduated, Steve's friendship was all around us. He assisted with our home meets and last year stepped in at the last minute to serve as the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Meet Referee at the Indoor Championships. He was the unanimous choice among the conference coaches and did an amazing job.

There is no question his track presence will be missed, but it is his friendship that makes saying goodbye so damn hard. He had a positive effect on so many. I loved getting his phone calls. We'd share stories about our families- he was all about family. I'll miss hearing him gush over his wife, K'Lynn, his daughter, Erica and son, Scott- the family he adored and was so proud of. He would always ask about my family and genuinely wanted to know how they were doing. He'd ask sincere questions of how our athletes and coaches were doing. And of course we would talk on and on about track and field. I'll miss all of that. I always felt better after getting off the phone with Steve. I think anybody who is lucky enough to have him as a friend feels the same way. You hang up feeling like you matter to a really, really good person. You can't put a price on that. He was a true friend to me and a great friend of the UNI program.

On Saturday he will be laid to rest.

If you know nothing else about Steve Lynn, know this: He was one of the finest people you could ever meet. He was as decent a man as ever lived. He loved his family and friends and was loved greatly in return. As another coach put it when he found out the sad news: "Steve was one of the good ones." Those close to him know he was one of the best.

RIP Friend. You will be missed more than you know.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

2012 UNI Track & Field Graduating Class

The 2012 UNI Track & Field graduating class is comprised of an extraordinary group of people who walked onto this campus as boys and girls and who leave us as young men and women. Each had a journey all their own, experiencing high and low points, thrilling victories and disappointing defeats. There is value in both, winning and losing. After all, college is supposed to be about learning and experiencing things that will help you later in life.

As with each graduating class, I am excited to watch their futures unfold. Some are going on to teach, some to coach, some to mentor. One has an internship with DreamWorks Animation in Los Angeles, and another with USA Track and Field in Indianapolis. But wherever they go, wherever their lives take them, they will always be part of the UNI family. All of them had an impact on this program and in the lives of their teammates. The UNI Athletic Department is a family business and they will always have a home here.

Meet the 2012 UNI Track & Field Graduating Class:

Justin Bartels 

  • 800m PR of 1:53.70 at the 2011 MVC Outdoor Championships
  • Placed 5th in the 800m at the 2011 MVC Outdoor Championships
  • Indoor 800m PR of 1:53.64 at Notre Dame this year
  • All-MVC with a runner-up finish in the distance medley this year
  • Twice ran on a relay that earned a top 7 finish at the Drake Relays 

Justin in his own words

Leah Blanchard

  • 7th place in the steeplechase at the 2010 MVC Outdoor Championships
  • 15th place in the mile at the 2012 MVC Indoor
  • 2-time Top 20 finisher in the 1500m at the MVC Championships
  • Owned the 5th-fastest 6k time for the 2011 XC season
  • UNI’s No. 5 finisher at the 2010 MVC Cross Country Championships
  • 1500m PR of 4:51.33
  • Outdoor 3,000m PR of 10:18.88

Leah in her own words

Michaela Brungardt

  • No. 2 all-time at UNI in the indoor 400m (54.84)
  • No. 3 all-time at UNI in the indoor 300m (39.96)
  • No. 2 & No. 4 all-time at UNI in the indoor 4x4 (3:42.87 & 3:42.97)
  • No. 3 & No. 5 all-time at UNI in the outdoor 4x4 (3:40.36 & 3:42.21)
  • No. 5 all-time at UNI in the outdoor 400m (55.09)
  • Back-to-back MVC Champion in the indoor 4x400m relay in 2011 and 2012
  • 3rd place and All-MVC in the 400m at the 2012 MVC Indoor
  • 7-time placewinner in the 400m dash at the MVC Championships

Michaela in her own words

Beau Dielschneider

  • 400m PR of 48.99
  • 800m PR of 1:50.90
  • 5th in 400m at 2011 MVC Indoor
  • All-MVC in the 4x4 and indoor 800m
  • Member of Drake Relays runner-up 4x8 in 2009
  • Ran on DMR that placed 14th at the 2009 NCAA Indoor Championships 

Beau in his own words

Brady Fritz

  • 8-time All-MVC performer
  • 2nd in the 800m at the MVC Indoor and Outdoor in 2010
  • Anchored UNI’s 2nd place DMR at the 2012 MVC Indoor
  • Also All-MVC in the mile and 1500m
  • Mile PR of 4:06.83 – ranks No. 3 all-time at UNI
  • 800m PR of 1:51.15

Brady in his own words

Traci Harms

  • No. 2 all-time at UNI in the hammer throw (190-4)
  • No. 2 all-time at UNI in the indoor shot put (49-9)
  • No. 2 all-time at UNI in the weight throw (62-11 ½)
  • No. 4 all-time at UNI in the outdoor shot put (48-6)
  • 2011 NCAA West Preliminary Rounds qualifier in the hammer throw
  • 6th place in the weight throw at the 2012 MVC Indoor Championships
  • 8th place in the hammer throw at the 2011 MVC Outdoor Championships

Traci in her own words

Jarred Herring

  • 60m PR of 6.81
  • 100m PR of 10.42
  • 200m PR of 21.27
  • 2-time MVC champion in the 100m, winning the event as a freshman and as a junior
  • MVC champion in the 4x100m relay
  • Also All-MVC in the 200m
  • 8-time All-MVC performer
  • Regional qualifier (100m, 200m) in 2009, West Preliminary Rounds Qualifier in 2011 (100m, 4x1)
  • No. 3 all-time at UNI in the 4x100m relay

Jarred in his own words

Tanner Hurt

  • School record-holder in the hammer throw (206 feet, 1 inch)
  • No. 4 all-time at UNI in the weight throw
  • 2nd place in the hammer at the 2011 MVC Outdoor, setting the school record
  • 2nd place in the discus at the 2009 MVC Championships
  • 4th in the weight throw at the 2011 and 2012 MVC Indoor
  • Qualified for the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds in 2011, placing 22nd in the hammer
Tanner in his own words

Timmy Johnson

  • 60m PR of 6.90
  • 100m PR of 10.80
  • Placed in the top 5 of the 60m dash at MVC 3 times
  • 4th place in the 60m dash at the 2011 MVC Indoor with a personal-best 6.90
  • 5th place in the 60m dash at the 2010 MVC Indoor
  • 5th place in the 60m dash at the 2009 MVC Indoor

Timmy in his own words

Sam Kranz

  • Indoor PR of 17-06.25 (5.34m) established in 2010 – No. 5 all-time at UNI
  • Outdoor PR of 17-02.75 (5.25m) at the 2010 NCAA West Preliminary Rounds
  • Regional qualifier in 2009, NCAA Preliminary Rounds qualifier in 2010 and 2011
  • MVC Indoor Champion in 2010 and 2011
  • MVC Outdoor Champion in 2011
  • 5-time All-MVC 

Sam in his own words

Jill Lageschulte

  • School record-holder in the 3,000m steeplechase at 10:44.44 (broke the record twice this season)
  • 10th in the 5k at the 2012 MVC Indoor Championships
  • No. 1 or No. 2 finisher for UNI at 6 out of 7 cross country meets in 2011
  • Panthers’ No. 2 finisher at the 2011 MVC Cross Country Championship (19th overall)

Jill in her own words

David Nielsen

  • Owned UNI’s 3rd-fastest 8k time in 2011 (26:22)
  • Owned UNI’s 4th-fastest 6k time in 2011 (20:43)
  • UNI’s No. 6 finisher at the 2011 MVC Cross Country Championships
  • On the MVC XC Championships roster for each of the past 3 seasons

David in his own words

Olimpia Nowak

  • School record-holder in the 60m hurdles, 100m hurdles, pentathlon, heptathlon, and shuttle hurdle
  • No. 2 all-time at UNI in the 400m hurdles (58.77)
  • No. 3 all-time at UNI in the indoor long jump (19-4 ¾)
  • On the indoor 4x4 team that ranks No. 4 all-time at UNI
  • On the outdoor 4x4 team that ranks No. 5 all-time at UNI
  • Currently No. 5 in the nation in the heptathlon
  • 3-time NCAA Indoor qualifier in the pentathlon (8th in 2012, 12th in 2011, 14th in 2008)
  • 3-time NCAA Outdoor qualifier in the heptathlon 
  • First team All-American in the pentathlon
  • 2-time MVC champ in the pentathlon
  • 2-time MVC runner-up in the heptathlon

 Olimpia in her own words

Carly Olsen

  • No. 5 all-time at UNI in the 1500m (4:33.90 in 2009)
  • On the outdoor DMR teams that rank No. 3 and No. 5 all-time at UNI
  • No. 6 all-time in the 6k in cross country (21:45 in 2008)
  • 3rd place and All-MVC in the DMR at the 2010 MVC Indoor championships
  • 6th place in the 1500m at the 2009 MVC Outdoor championships
  • UNI’s No. 3 finisher at the MVC Cross Country Championships in 2009 and 2010

Carly in her own words

Justin Romero

  • School record-holder in the outdoor shot put: 61'-1 1/2" (18.63m)
  • No. 2 all-time at UNI in the indoor shot put: 59-02.75
  • MVC Indoor champion in 2011 and 2012
  • MVC Outdoor runner-up in 2011
  • 4-time All-MVC in total
  • 4th in the discus at the 2011 MVC Outdoor Championships
  • 4th at the 2011 Drake Relays in the shot put
  • 2011 & 2012 NCAA West Preliminary Rounds qualifier 

Justin in his own words

Johanna Smith

  • High jump PR of 5-5 (1.65m), set at Jim Duncan Invitational this year
  • 4-time top 10 finisher in the multi-events at the MVC Championships
  • 7th in the heptathlon at the 2011 MVC Outdoor
  • 7th in the heptathlon at the 2010 MVC Outdoor
  • 9th in the pentathlon at the 2010 MVC Indoor
  • 10th in the pentathlon at the 2011 MVC Indoor

Johanna in her own words

Aaron Stockstell

  • Outdoor 800m PR of 1:49.29 – fastest at UNI in the last 3 years
  • Indoor 800m PR of 1:49.45 – fastest at UNI in the lat 3 years
  • 2012 MVC Indoor champion in the 4x4
  • 4-time All-MVC performer
  • 2011 NCAA West Preliminary Rounds qualifier in the 800m
  • Ran on 3 relays that placed in the top 8 at the Drake Relays

Aaron in his own words

Brendan Thompson

  • 3,000m steeplechase PR of 10:00.75
  • Indoor 5K PR of 15:38.44
  • UNI’s No. 4 finisher at the 2011 MVC Cross Country Championships
  • 4th-fastest 8k on the team in 2011 (26:36)
  • UNI’s No. 2 finisher at the 2011 Bulldog Classic at Drake

Brendan in his own words

Wilmot Wellington

  • MVC Champion in the 4x100m relay in 2011
  • Honorable mention All-American in the 4x1 after advancing to the national semifinals
  • Currently on the 4x1 team that ranks No. 3 all-time at UNI
  • 5th in the 200m dash at the 2011 MVC Indoor
  • 6th in the 60m dash at the 2011 MVC Indoor 

Wil in his own words

Friday, March 23, 2012

Olimpia Nowak: The Courage to Hope

Many times in my coaching career I have looked up at a scoreboard waiting for the final results from a multi events competition to post. Last weekend in Boise, Idaho at the 2012 Indoor NCAA Championships was no exception. UNI senior, Olimpia Nowak was in a dogfight for a coveted First Team All-America title. I have looked up at a lot of scoreboards in my career, but I don’t ever recall hoping that hard for an athlete.  

A Little Background
When I started coaching at UNI on October 1st, 2009, I met a terrific student athlete named Olimpia. A citizen of Poland, she was coming off a surgery to correct an injury to her foot. It was easy to identify her as an elite athlete, capable of becoming a First-Team NCAA All-American (top eight) in both the indoor pentathlon and outdoor heptathlon. As not only the head coach, but also the multi events coach, I immediately went to work training her.
Never one to complain, Olimpia quietly worked hard at everything she did. She has an amazing work ethic I assume was developed in Poland, long before she ever arrived at UNI. So you can imagine my surprise when she said to me: “Coach, I appreciate that you think I can be great, but I am afraid you think I am better than I really am.” It took me awhile, but I eventually understand why she felt that way. 

Olimpia (far right) as a teenage phenom in Poland
When Olimpia was 16 years old, she was one of the most promising athletes in Poland. She was training at a high level and earmarked for greatness. She dreamed of being in the Olympics. Unfortunately, her body started to break down. An accomplished long jumper and high jumper, Olimpia pounded her feet and legs in practice. This constant pounding is speculated to have lead to her injuries. One injury became two, two became three; one disappointment followed another. After years of injuries and disappointments, Olimpia was afraid to hope.

First time in America
Olimpia arrived in Cedar Falls, IA in January of 2008. She had never been to the USA before and her English was poor. She struggled academically in that first term, but only two weeks into the semester Olimpia established a new UNI school record in the pentathlon. That record would be one of the last bright moments for her first season as a Panther. Her chronic foot injury worsened and after the outdoor season it was determined she needed surgery. Olimpia red-shirted the 2010 seasons as she rehabbed her foot. She told me she withdrew emotionally from the track and field program that year, resolved to focus on her academics instead of athletics. Her English had improved significantly by her 2nd year and she was becoming a committed student. She was focusing on her future, but in her mind, her track and field career was over.
Her UNI Career
In her career at UNI, Olimpia has re-injured her foot four or five times, causing frustration and extreme discouragement. Literally every time she takes a jump in a track meet we run the risk of a season ending injury. We turned our focus instead to the running events and she improved at an amazing rate. As she became healthier, her frustration turned to joy. Her smile returned and she became reconnected with her team. In 2011 she was a member of the MVC champion 4x4 squad and one of the top combination hurdlers in the country, qualifying for the first round of the NCAA Outdoor Championships in both events in addition to the heptathlon. I am fully confident she will graduate as the school record holder in the pentathlon, heptathlon, 60m, 100m and 400m hurdle events. 

By 2012, her final collegiate season, Olimpia had accomplished far more than most. She is now an honor student with her sights set on graduate school. The athlete I coach today is very different from the one I met in 2009. Between the pentathlon and heptathlon, she has been to the NCAA Championships four times. Still, that First Team All-America honor had eluded her. But she had never looked better. She was faster and healthier than she had ever been as a Panther. She finally broke her 2008 school record in the pentathlon at the 2012 MVC Championships. Two weeks ago, there was finally hope in the eyes of Olimpia Nowak heading into the NCAA Indoor Championships in Boise, ID.

The 2012 Indoor NCAA Championships

First event: 60m Hurdles. The UNI school record holder had established herself as one of the top 60m hurdlers in the country in 2012. As expected, she ran a fantastic race in Boise to start out the competition in 4th place.

Second event: High Jump. She had been looking better and better in practice. The bar kept going up and she kept making it. In fact, the more she jumped the better she looked. At 5’7” she had her first miss. Then her second. She dug down on the third attempt and looked fantastic, making it easily. I was ecstatic but she didn’t celebrate. My big smile was met with a serious face and tears welling up in her eyes. I had seen that look too many times over the past three years. “I did it again” she said.
“Your foot?” I asked.
She knodded. “I needed to make that bar… I was too aggressive.”
“Do you need to stop?” I asked.
“This is my last indoor meet. I am going to finish.” The foot and ankle began swelling immediately. Our athletic trainer, Erik Caouch, gave her Ibuprofen.

Third event: Shot Put. She figured out quickly in warm-ups she couldn’t use her full throw because her ankle couldn’t handle the weight. She took three standing throws and incredibly, still managed a good performance.

Fourth event: Long Jump. After not being able to handle full throws in the shot put, I didn’t know how she was going to get through the impact of the long jump. I met with Erik. “She’s about to try something that is nearly impossible. I want you to tape her foot really tight. This needs to be the best tape job of your career.” He did an amazing job but it caused her excruciating pain because the tape was squeezing down on her swollen ankle. I pulled her aside one last time. “You don’t have to do this Olimpia.”
“I’ll be ok.” She answered.
I could barely watch. From a short approach she took her first jump. It was shockingly good. She could have stopped there but she wanted a better mark. Amazingly, her second jump was technically excellent, and even farther than the first.

I will always be in awe at the courage and strength she found to sprint down the runway and take those jumps. The event I expected to knock her out of the competition actually put her in contention for All-American with only one event remaining. Truly inspiring to witness.

Fifth event: 800m. Olimpia was in ninth place heading into the final event, the 800m. She knew she needed a great performance and opted out of taping her ankle. "Tape will slow me down." She said. She started the first of two sections with a visible limp, but her stride got smoother as the race went on. Watching her run her heart out was really something to see. I was just so proud of her. She had come so far. Her time was excellent and after watching the second section I thought it just might be enough to move her into the top eight. All we could do was wait.
When I saw the name, Olimpia Nowak come up in eighth place, I got that emotional jolt I live for as a coach. She was finally a First-Team All-American, only the third female track and field athlete in UNI history to so.

In one of the gutsiest performances I have ever witnessed, Olimpia Nowak had once again found the courage to hope. 

Olimpia with Champion, Brianne Theisen

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The 2012 MVC Indoor Meet

I'm having trouble being anything but proud of how the Panthers competed this past weekend at the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships. I know I am supposed to be upset about not winning the team titles, but I don't remember having so many moments to celebrate. 


Corey Szamlewski. Less than a year ago I watched a senior pole vaulter from McHenry High School in Illinois compete at the Illinois Prep Top Times meet. There was something special in this kid. He was raw, athletic and fearless. On Friday Corey entered his first MVC meet as a Panther. Coach Bertoli told me Corey was ready to jump high. "Trust me," he said. Corey started the competition with a personal best of 15'7". He cleared 15'9; we cheered. He cleared 16'1"; we screamed.  He cleared 16'5; we went crazy. He cleared 16'9" and we lost our minds knowing we were witnessing something we'd never forget. Four PR's in a row and Corey finished the best MVC Vault competition in history with a 3rd place finish. And a claim on the future. 
Corey's Four(!) Personal Bests


Every so often you get a senior who decides to run down a dream in their last year. Michaela Brungardt has always been talented. But a change has come over her in her final year that has been absolutely thrilling to observe. She quietly put in the extra work last summer. She has quietly moved up the rankings all indoor season and improved her personal best nearly every week. In the finals of the 400m on Saturday, Michaela's gutsy race produced the greatest performance in the history of Northern Iowa. She was better than even she thought she could be. That's one of the greatest things any coach can witness. Michaela followed that performance up with a terrific leg on the best 4x400m relay in UNI history. Does hard work and discipline pay off? I have a very happy senior that knows the answer.

As a freshman in the fall of 2010, sprinter Cam Brown tried out for the UNI track team. He had a thin resume and a bad hamstring. He was told what most athletes are told when they aren't ready to have a meaningful experience in our program; train on your own, get better, and try out again next fall. Most we never see again. Cam took the news like a man and did exactly what we told him to do.This fall Cam tried out again, healthier, stronger and faster. I threw everything I had at him to get him to break. But he didn't break. In fact, he was as good as any of our recruited athletes. I hadn't planned on adding any roster spots with this fall's try-outs, but created one for the kind of kid I want in our program. Now that he is officially a UNI athlete, Cam works his tail off, never complains and asks for nothing but the opportunity to compete as a Panther. Last Friday Cam sprinted his way into the MVC 60 meter Finals in his very first conference meet. Like Cam Brown, the two points he earned on Saturday are made of the salt of the Earth.

As a freshman in the fall of 2008, Derek Kramer joined the Panther team as a broken athlete. Marred with injuries, he barely was able to compete. His injuries continued into the fall of 2009. I told him to take the year off and get healthy. Never giving up, he came out again in the fall of 2010, this time reasonably healthy. Derek heroically made the 60m MVC Finals last year. Incredibly, he went on to run on the 2011 MVC Champion 4x100m relay squad and later earned 2nd team All-America honors in the same event. This 2012 indoor season, Derek has established himself as a bonifide MVC sprint threat. "We're going to sweep the 60," he said to me a couple of months ago. With two-time MVC 60m Champion, Carlos Anderson and two-time MVC 100m  Champion, Jared Herring; Derek Kramer's prediction came true. With those three athletes and the help of the unlikely Cam Brown, UNI scored an eye-popping 26 points in the 60m on Saturday. 


You would never know the unflappable Daniel Gooris has had a rough road. Always positive, always happy, the excellent student, Gooris epitomizes that which we all strive for in athletics. Four years ago as a true freshman, he won the the MVC Heptathlon title. One week later he nearly lost his life in a horrific motorcycle accident. His journey to this second title was a long one. He was the overwhelming favorite this year and most people didn't see his win as very extraordinary. His parents, on the other hand, traveled all the way from New Mexico to watch him win it. They know a miracle when they see one.  
Daniel's 2nd MVC Title

Olimpia Nowak has accomplished nearly everything you can as a collegiate athlete. On Friday in the Pentathlon she was simply brilliant. Olimpia broke her own school records in the 60m hurdles and the pentathlon en route to one of the top scores in the country. Next week she will have one final indoor meet as a panther when she takes on the very best in America at the NCAA Championships. Also a stellar student, Olimpia represents all we strive to be in UNI Track and Field.
Olimpia's 60m Hurdles School Record   

UNI pole vaulter and school record holder, Jenna Wexter has attempted to clear 13' for three years. I have witnessed the hard work and the frustration. Even though she has experienced much success in these three seasons, that 13' barrier had eluded her until Saturday. Our joy in watching her clear that bar was exceeded only by her own.

Jenna's School Record

In the most inspired performance of the 2011 Indoor MVC Championships, Justin Romero stole the Shot Put title. All year Justin has been predicting a repeat performance. Justin wasn't even close to being the favorite this year, but that didn't stop him from delivering on his promise.  
 Justin Romero's Win

The 4x400m Relay is my favorite event in track and field. This weekend, the Panthers won both men's and women's titles in dramatic fashion. Six of the eight athletes were true freshman, but all competed like seasoned veterans. The videos below are worth the viewing. 
MVC Men's 4x400m Relay

MVC Women's 4x400m Relay

All in all, the Panther men and women did a terrific job. We set PR's all over the place and stepped up and competed wonderfully. I am very proud of these teams. Like I said at the beginning of this post; I don't remember having so many moments to celebrate.

GO Panthers!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Stage is Set

I love to compete. Always have. My identical twin brother, Darrin and I used to make everything into a competition when we were kids. Now that I think about it, we haven’t changed much as adults. I love the thrill of a good fight. I love the head to head battles in sport; the come from behind victories, the last second shots and the impossible wins. I’ve had my heart broken by losing the close ones and I’ve known the wins that should never have happened. I’m not entirely sure a competitive nature can be taught. The resilience to stay strong in the battle, even when the chips are down is developed at a pretty early age. I don't think winners learn how to compete at this point in the game. The good ones have been winning by out-competing their opponents their whole lives. That is why I place far more importance on a recruit's ability to win than I do on their personal bests. If they know how to compete well at the big meets, chances are they will perform well at the next level.

In two days the UNI Panther tracksters will  embark on another indoor Missouri Valley Conference Championship. This is my favorite part of the year. I LOVE this stuff. The athletes are all peaking and everyone is mobilizing toward a common goal. It is in these team championships we find the reason track and field was once one of the most popular sports in America. This weekend at the MVC championships, you will see some of the most fun and exciting track and field you are likely to see anywhere. I want everyone to come to the meet because I want everyone to see track and field at it’s finest.

The Stage
According to the form charts, the men's team race appears to be a battle between Indiana State and Southern Illinois. Wichita State and UNI are well back.
On the women's side, Wichita State is the early favorite followed by Indiana State and Southern Illinois. 
The good news is that when it comes to MVC Championships, you can flush the form charts down the toilet. They are practically meaningless. 

Here is what I can tell you about Northern Iowa: We are well prepared for the meet and tougher than we were a year ago. I love the fight in this team. The veterans are seasoned and ready for the task at hand. They've seen a couple close MVC meets slip away and seem very focused on doing whatever is asked of them to help the Panther cause. The freshmen are too young to know they shouldn't win the meet, and hungry enough to stick their noses in places they don't belong. Fearless newcomers have a tendency to make a real mess of the form charts.

I have no idea where the UNI teams are going to finish in the team race, but we will be playing to win. I can't find many lessons in playing it safe. It should be a great battle. Both teams could win, both could finish as low as 4th or 5th. That is the beauty and nightmare of relying on freshmen. But this will be an incredibly fun meet. The Panthers that will be competing Saturday and Sunday don't have any quit in them. I have been around long enough to know a special group when I see one. Win or lose, they will make you proud to be supporting the Purple and Gold.
The meet is Saturday and Sunday, February 25th and 26th.The schedule is listed at the bottom of this blog.

9:30 a.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Women’s Pentathlon
10:00 a.m. 60 Meter Dash Men’s Heptathlon
10:30 a.m. High Jump Women’s Pentathlon
10:55 a.m. Long Jump Men’s Heptathlon
12:00 p.m. Shot Put Women’s Pentathlon
12:30 p.m. Shot Put Men’s Heptathlon
1:15 p.m. High Jump Men’s Heptathlon
1:45 p.m. Long Jump Women’s Pentathlon
2:45 p.m. 800 Meter Run Women’s Pentathlon
Field Events
1:15 p.m. 20# Weight Throw Women’s Trials and Final
3:00 p.m. Pole Vault Men’s Final
3:15 p.m. 35# Weight Throw Men’s Final
4:15 p.m. Long Jump Men’s Trials and Final
6:15 p.m. Long Jump Women’s Trials and Final
Track Events
3:00 p.m. 60 Meter Dash Women’s Prelims (If needed)
3:15 p.m. 60 Meter Dash Men’s Prelims (If needed)
3:30 p.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Women’s Prelims (If needed)
3:45 p.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Men’s Prelims (If needed)
4:00 p.m. 800 Meter Run Women’s Prelims
4:15 p.m. 800 Meter Run Men’s Prelims
4:35 p.m. 400 Meter Dash Women’s Prelims
4:50 p.m. 400 Meter Dash Men’s Prelims
5:05 p.m. 60 Meter Dash Women’s Semi Finals
5:20 p.m. 60 Meter Dash Men’s Semi Finals
5:35 p.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Women’s Semi Finals
5:50 p.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Men’s Semi Finals
6:05 p.m. 3,000 Meter Run (Slow Heat) Women’s Final
6:25 p.m. 3,000 Meter Run (Fast Heat) Women’s Final
6:45 p.m. 3,000 Meter Run (Slow Heat) Men’s Final
7:00 p.m. 3,000 Meter Run (Fast Heat) Men’s Final
7:15 p.m. 200 Meter Dash Women’s Prelims
7:30 p.m. 200 Meter Dash Men’s Prelims
7:45 p.m. Distance Medley Relay Women’s Final
8:05 p.m. Distance Medley Relay Men’s Final


9:30a.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Men’s Heptathlon
10:15 a.m. Pole Vault Men’s Heptathlon
12:15 p.m. 1,000 Meter Run Men’s Heptathlon
Field Events
11:30 p.m. Triple Jump Women’s Trials and Final
12:00 p.m. Shot Put Women’s Trials and Final
12:00 p.m. High Jump Men’s Final
1:30 p.m. Pole Vault Women’s Final
2:00 p.m. High Jump Women’s Final
2:00 p.m. Shot Put Men’s Trials and Final
1:30 p.m. Triple Jump Men’s Trials and Final
Track Events
1:00 p.m. Mile Run (Slow Heat) Women’s Final
1:10 p.m. Mile Run (Fast Heat) Women’s Final
1:20 p.m. Mile Run (Slow Heat) Men’s Final
1:30 p.m. Mile Run (Fast Heat) Men’s Final
1:40 p.m. 400 Meter Dash Women’s Final
1:45 p.m. 400 Meter Dash Men’s Final
1:50 p.m. 60 Meter Dash Women’s Final
1:55 p.m. 60 Meter Dash Men’s Final
2:00 p.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Women’s Final
2:10 p.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Men’s Final
2:20 p.m. 800 Meter Run Women’s Final
2:25 p.m. 800 Meter Run Men’s Final
2:30 p.m. 200 Meter Dash (2 sections) Women’s Final
2:35 p.m. 200 Meter Dash (2 sections) Men’s Final
2:40 p.m. 5,000 Meter Run Women’s Final
3:05 p.m. 5,000 Meter Run Men’s Final
3:25 p.m. 4 x 400 Meter Relay Women’s Final
3:35 p.m. 4 x 400 Meter Relay Men’s Final

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Coaching Generation Y

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
~Mahatma Gandhi

Being the Change

Coaching and Teaching
I love coaching and teaching. I love working with young people and helping them achieve their goals. I love watching them evolve under my watchful eye into an early version of the adults they will someday become. I love the nature of sports and the accountability the final score brings.    

Coaching Generation Y
“The athletes have changed.” I hear this all the time from my peers in collegiate coaching. There was a time when I said that too. I no longer believe this to be true. I think parenting has changed. I think their socialization has changed. I think the world has changed. The current generation of college athletes; Generation Y, The Trophy Generation, The Facebook Generation, or whatever other name the media is using to describe them, is unique- just like every other generation. And like all previous generations, they are amazing and frustrating for older generations to deal with. I could give you a laundry list of complaints I have about them, but in the end these are just a scrambled up version of the same complaints all older generations have had about younger generations. Years ago I accepted the fact that if I am going to be successful in helping them become the best athletes they can be, I have to adapt to them and their unique generational quirks. Like all students I need to connect with, I need to meet them where they are. And in the end, isn’t that what successful teaching requires of all teachers?   

So why is unearned self esteem a problem?
Kids from the Trophy Generation often suffer from unearned self esteem. We have to keep in mind their socialization contained less competition and more perceived success than previous generations. This experience undermines their ability to overcome failures and achieve things through hard work, trial and error. When faced with certain truths about themselves that challenge the idea they are great, there is nothing to challenge that truth. One new job for coaches and teachers is to help them shine an accurate light on their current ability level without shattering their confidence. This is a fine line we walk, but it can be managed if the athlete trusts the coach and sees a reasonable path leading toward their goals.  

So why is unearned self esteem an asset?
This generation is fearless. In fact, the only things I can see that they are actually afraid of are the judgments and decisions of older generations. This world is changing at lightning speed and instead of fearing the changes; they can’t wait to see what happens next. They pick up the latest technologies and start using them immediately. The ease in which they embrace and adapt to their rapidly changing world is something I find truly amazing.  

Some things will never change
In the end, the lessons of the teacher are the same as they always have been. In whatever time you have, help them accumulate the tools that will better prepare them for a life full of adversities nobody can accurately predict. I have 4-5 years to make a positive difference in the athlete’s life. I will never tire of the thrill of watching an athlete I have coached achieve their goal. It is one of the most rewarding experiences in life, and no generational quirk will ever change that experience for me. 

Be the change
With this current generation it is easy to have the attitude of, “Wait until you get in the real world. You are in for a shock!” But can’t we be better than the older generations who said the same things about us? The real world is getting harder and harder for me to fathom. Our job with this generation is to smooth out their rough edges, fix their collars and send them out into the world- praying they do a better job than we did. After all, who better to thrive in the new real world than an entire generation of young people who are na├»ve enough to think they can literally do anything. This generation just might be the first to actually be the changes they wish to see in the world.