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Getting things up and running

March 2, 2013
By Jim Tate - SMSU , Marshall Independent

Hey, nobody said it was going to be easy.

That's why SMSU track and field coach Nate Wolf is recruiting not only talented track and field athletes, but a certain type of person, also, as he prepares for SMSU's return to track and field during the 2013-14 academic year.

SMSU brought back men's and women's cross country this academic year, and will add men's and women's track and field next year. It was announced last week, also, that a beautiful track and field complex will be constructed over the next year at old Mattke Field, in a collaborative agreement between SMSU and Marshall Public Schools.

"That alone will help with recruiting," said Wolf, an Alma, Neb., native who came to SMSU last summer from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, where he was head women's and men's cross country and track and field coach. He competed there, too, in the mile and 3,000 meters. "The facility will be huge for us. People like new things, and one thing about SMSU, when they do build, they do a good job of it. Everyone I've told about (the new facility) has been excited."

SMSU sponsored men's cross country from 1968 until suspending the program after the 1990 season, and had women's cross country from 1979 to 1984 and again from 1986 to 1990.

SMSU last sponsored men's track and field from 1969 to 1986 and again from 1990 to 1993, and sponsored women's track and field from 1972 to 1986 and again from 1990 to 1993.

Wolf is a glass-half-full guy and knows the challenges of building a couple of programs from the ground up. He has the reputation as a tenacious recruiter with ties to the region, and actually plans on recruiting two classes for this coming year.

"This year's runners will be sophomores next year," he explained, talking about the seven men and nine women who were cross country runners this past season. So he's recruiting some junior college athletes now ? juniors next year ? as well as high school seniors, who will be freshmen next year. "We'll have freshmen through juniors then," he said.

"I want a team that likes to do good work, and is not afraid of doing hard things. A lot of athletes don't want to do the hard things. That carries over to academics. I have three main tenants: accountability, responsibility and discipline. Those are what make a good student, a good athlete and a good person.

"We also want athletes who want to be a part of something, and we want them to buy into the process. I think my message to them has been not everyone is wired to be a person who wants to start something from the ground up, that you have an opportunity to be the first. There are very few first times in the world today, and you get to be the first."

He's been getting a lot of calls since the official announcement last week of the return of track and field. "We've got some momentum going. Getting the word out is the hardest thing now. When we started the cross country program, we did a press release and within a few days had people contacting me. It's been the same with track and field. I've been contacted by athletes, coaches and parents. I've got 15 committed to this point."

He said southwest Minnesota is a track and field hotbed, and that he'd tap into familiar recruiting spots all the while making connections this coming track season. "I'll be going to a lot of track meets," he said. His recruiting area will be northwest Iowa, southwest Minnesota and eastern South Dakota.

He knows he's smack dab in the middle of two of the conference's better programs, at Augustana and Mankato, and said SMSU will have facilities that will ensure he has a good shot at the athletes he'd like to attend SMSU.

Cross country runners will also participate in track and field, he said. And while it's not realistic to expect, say, sprinters to participate in cross country, "they will be working out," during the fall, he said.

Wolf's wife, Lori, is finishing the year as a special education teacher in the Maurice-Orange City school district and will join him soon, he said. That leaves him a lot of time to work. And that's what he's been doing. He hosted five recruits this past Wednesday, got commitments from two of them, and feels one of the athletes has a chance "to be the best I've ever coached."

Wolf had built the Northwestern program into one that was ranked nationally in the NAIA. Why the move to SMSU? "I like the build stuff, I like the challenge of getting it going. And I think, too, for me it was hard to ask students to pay private-school prices (at Northwestern). It became more (expensive) every year. SMSU has a ton going for it, and I've received support from President (Ron) Wood and (Director of Athletics) Chris Hmielewski. Plus, I like the community. The first time I was in town, I thought to myself, 'I could live here.' Plus, there's the challenge of a professional step up to the Division II level. All of those things attracted me to SMSU."

Wolf certainly has the passion, energy and personality to get things going in the right direction at SMSU. Building something from the ground up is challenging, sure, and you either embrace it, or run from it.

Wolf's the kind of guy who embraces it.



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