HEAD MEN’S AND WOMEN’S CROSS-COUNTRY AND TRACK COACH
KENTUCKY WESLEYAN COLLEGE
PART II- Coaching a Growing Program vs. Coaching an Established Program
Tony Rowe is no stranger to the Kentucky cross-country and track and field community. Having spent thirty-six years leading the boys cross-country program and thirty-seven years at the helm of the boys track team at Daviess County HS, he is beginning his first season in charge of another group of Panthers at Kentucky Wesleyan College. During his time at Daviess County, he led the Panthers to 8 cross-country state team championships, 9 state runner-up finishes, 8 third place finishes and four 4th place finishes--twenty nine times “on the podium” at the State Meet in thirty six seasons. In track, the Panthers won a pair of state championships in 1997 and 1999 and were state runner-up four times. In cross-country, he coached five individuals (McKay Mattingly, Jeramy Kazlauskas, Charlie Moore, David Christian and Evan Ehrenheim) that won the individual state cross-country title on eight different occasions. He also coached 28 regional championship teams in cross-country.
KYTRACKXC.COM sat down with Coach Rowe in is the second of a three-part series.
1) Talk a little about the program you inherited when you started at Daviess County in 1977. Having run at Owensboro, what led you to Daviess County---being your rival school? What do you recall the most about that first season?
I inherited a solid program thanks to the excellent job Chuck Gullo had done at DC. He actually coached Daviess County to two State Championships in ’71 and ’72 and had the individual champion in Cutis Hopewell (’71) and Billy Moorman (’75.) When Chuck left for Ft. Thomas Highlands in ’77, the opportunity to coach in my hometown was a blessing and it doesn’t take long to form an allegiance to a program when you are coaching there. The excitement of being able to coach the sport I had such a passion for was what I recall so vividly about that season.
2) The State Meet in 1978 was what some would label a “near miss.” What happened on that day and how did that impact the team in the years that followed? Did that occurrence altar the way you prepared for the State Meet in the years to come?
That was a tough one to swallow. We were running a great race and winning at the 4k mark. As a matter of fact, the lead pack had four runners and three of them – McKay Mattingly, Scott Eckstein and Mike Rhodes had a DC on their chest. It was an unseasonably hot day for late October. Mattingly went on to win but the heat caught up with both Rhodes and Eckstein the last kilometer. The faded to 11th and 12th and Erlanger Lloyd beat us by 3 points. It was just one of those things.
3) Last Daviess County question: a lot of coaches haven’t had the chance to coach one individual state champion in cross-country. You were fortunate to coach five individuals that won the State Meet on eight different occasions. Three of those finished Top 8 in the South Region and qualified for Foot Locker Nationals. If McKay Mattingly, Jeramy Kazlauskas, Charlie Moore, David Christian and Evan Ehrenheim all lined up and raced their senior years, would do you think would win?
Wow, that’s a great question. All five of those guys had the heart of a lion and loved to compete. All five ran sub 15:20 in their careers at DC. I think David Christian would be the pacesetter in the race. He attacked every race. Jeramy, Charlie and Evan all had terrific duals in their respective state championship races against John Perkins (St X), Ryan Knight (Male), and Jake Wildenmann (Trinity), respectively, so they definitely would be game in a big pressure race. I think a race among these five would probably be determined in the last 400 meters and if that were the scenario, I would have to give the edge to Mattingly. He had tremendous speed (49.6 split on our mile relay.)
4) Kentucky Wesleyan College is a relatively “new” cross-country program that began in the 1980’s, was cut for a long time, and re-launched in 2005. What are the positive aspects of coaching a growing program vs. one that has already been established?
KWC actually had cross country in the late 60’s and early 70’s also but the program has been on and off at times through the decades. I think even an established program must be one that is “growing.” Satisfaction breeds mediocrity so you must continually compete. There are many things I love about the challenge of my new position but what has impressed me the most is the athletes themselves. They have done everything we have asked and they have a hunger to learn. It is going to be fun to watch the improvement this year and in the seasons ahead.
5) What advice would you give to a young coach who has inherited a program that is trying to grow? What steps can he or she take to try to get to the next level----whatever that may be for any program.
You must be willing to put the time in to succeed. Finding a way to mix extremely hard work with fun is key. The coach sets the tone and the kids have to feel they are a part of something important. Longevity in the same program is also huge. The grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of the fence. Make it work where you are at and stick with it. The kids I coached at DC in my last season were nearly 40 years younger than those I coached in my first season, but they are all teammates with a proud tradition.
6) What do you look for in prospective student-athletes? What’s your long term vision for collegiate coaching at KWC? In what ways do you feel that your program is growing?
First of all, we want to make recruiting Kentucky a priority. I believe we can compete for conference championships with a roster of predominantly in-state athletes, but we will have a track roster this spring with athletes from Texas, California, and several other states as well. We want athletes who are good students - serious about getting a degree - and athletes with that intangible toughness it takes to embrace a challenge. Long-term we want to be competitive on the national Division II scene.
7) KWC opened up last weekend in a meet at the University of Southern Indiana? What were your thoughts on the opener for both genders? Were there any surprises?
Right now we are just focusing on ourselves and getting better. Most of our runners have recorded personal bests in our first two meets and I believe we will have some very significant improvement over the next couple of months. I am really enjoying watching the progress of our young team.
Read Part I in the Series Planning for College vs. Planning for HS w/ KY Wesleyan/Daviess County Coach Tony Rowe
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