Indoor Track and Field has proven itself competitors this season, starting with strong times two meets in a row. This success is offset with team-coach relations, as more is demanded of runners.
The Prairie Fire have gained well-earned attention, sweeping first place in the men and women’s mile, men’s 4×200-meter relay, men’s shot put and weight throw during the Fire Starter Invite. They also earned second place at Monmouth in the men’s 4×200, men’s distance medley and women’s distance medley.
This recent success is new to Knox, but not to Head Coach Randy Overby, whose previous two-year stint as assistant coach at Capital University in Columbus resulted in 44 all-conference selections and 15 school records. In an attempt to replicate this success, Overby has cracked down on his runners.
“He is a man with a plan and has an amazing vision for our track program,” senior medium distance runner Caitlin Hemby said. “My first impression of Coach O was very intense, and I definitely don’t think that has changed. Our training program is vigorous and he doesn’t accept anything but 100 percent effort.”
With a majority of track and field runners joining cross country this past fall, the team was able to begin in-season training with a leg up from past seasons, allowing for a larger focus on specifics such as injury prevention.
“People are already cutting down times,” captain senior thrower Brennan McGlauchlen said. “Which is impressive considering that the season has only just begun and we have the entire outdoor season in front of us as well.”
Success has swept through Knox athletics in recent months due to impactful recruiting and intensified training tactics, and though Overby’s no-nonsense coaching style has improved the physicality of the team, some feel it is at a price.
“I think the team has very mixed feelings about Coach Overby,” junior distance runner Joseph Gilmore said. “I know some really dislike him and disagree with the way he conducts himself, while others seek his respect and outwardly appear to like him.”
The disconnect stems from a lack of communication, something that a portion of runners feel could be rectified on Overby’s end by taking his runner’s needs into consideration more often.
“Some players like to know ahead of time what they are running, whereas Coach Overby likes to wait until the day of to finalize up positions for the meet,” McGlauchlen said.
While certain runners feel Overby could improve his relationship with runners, others feel team relations have strengthened, creating an overall closer team dynamic.
“I think this season has been really different from previous seasons,” Hemby said. “Everyone has come in with a positive attitude, including coaching staff, and communication between the team has gotten a lot better.”
Overby declined to comment.
The team has made an effort to strengthen unity; both Hemby and McGlauchlen agree with its importance.
“Team unity has been essential to our season,” Hemby said. “We have implemented a focus group before practice so that we all start every practice together, instead of breaking off into separate training groups.”
Despite the team’s bonding, there appears to be a disconnect between the mindset of runners and coach.
“It feels like he doesn’t quite understand the way Knox operates,” Gilmore said.
This is not a new theme; as a similar reason resulted in the loss of multiple runners last spring who felt they could not keep up with Overby’s rigorous schedule. Having lost a chunk of their indoor 2015 roster going into the outdoor season, Overby seems to have filled this gap with freshman as well as by utilizing athletes from other sports such as football and soccer, who add to the talent and range of the team. There are no signs of a similar exodus of runners happening again, as the team’s bonding and improvements create positivity.
As the team and coaching staff look forward to upcoming events and an impending Midwest Conference tournament hosted at home, both work to improve and continue on their upward momentum.
“Our team is extremely close, and for all the bumps and bruises that we have taken, we have overcome them by growing closer together. I am extremely proud of everything that our team has accomplished in the short time that the season has been underway,” McGlauchlen said.
The Prairie Fire gear up for their next meet this Saturday where they will be competing on the road in the Illinois Wesleyan Titan Open.