I used to think that having shiny new tools would make me a better carpenter. Trust me, they didn't. Coach Nate Wolf knows that having a shiny, new track facility won't automatically make his program elite, either. He knows that will take work, sweat, and time.
He wants to continue growing the Track and Cross Country programs, even after the new facility, located on the ground of the old Mattke field at Southwest Minnesota State University, is completed this fall. "We want to be one of those programs that's known as, again and again and again. We want to be known for our consistency," he said in his office in the PE building at SMSU.
After shelving track as a sport in 1993, SMSU brought it back in 2013 with Wolf at the helm. He had a lot of work to do. He needed, "the basic pieces of what it really took to have a track program." Like pole vaults, hurdles, and athletes.A hurried recruiting timeline landed him 42 athletes for the first season. This year he will have 65 rostered athletes. He hopes that his program will eventually grow to 100 athletes.
Wolf views the new facility as a foundation, rather than a magic potion that will make his teams elite. Though the track will have a Mondo Super X 720 surface, which is the same track surface that was at the 2012 Olympics. "Having the new track was something we could point to and say that the university is committed to this program. There has been a commitment made. We're not going to have a new track on campus and not have a track program. I think in that way it's been a benefit. It's put a little bit of weight to our words," he said.
While the facility may turn some heads, Wolf and his team has turned heads where it matters, on the track. "The coach from Bemidji, the longest tenured coach in the conference came up to my team after a meet and said 'You guys need to know that for a first year program, you guys are doing amazing things.' I think for them to hear that from someone else was impactful," he said.
The facility will include also include, a synthetic turf soccer field, and a number of field event areas. It will be shared between the high school and SMSU. The facility will also be used as an academic area for physical education, exercise science, and broadcasting programs.
Wolf is excited, but not giddy about the facility. He knows that he'll have more to prove once the track is laid down. "I think we have a good start. I think we just need to continue to build," said Wolf.
Good thing he has the right tools.