The cross country program welcomed a new head coach a week into their 2018 Fall preseason. Britton Koestler joins the Fire as the associate head coach of cross country and track and field.
Koestler comes from LeTourneau University, where he was the head men’s and women’s cross country coach and assistant track and field coach. He competed collegiately at NCAA Division I University of Louisiana at Monroe.
His first year coaching at LeTourneau, Koestler’s men’s team managed to achieve a second place finish in the 2015 American Southwest Conference Cross Country Championships. He has been working at a mental health facility the past six months before coming to Knox.
While Koestler’s coaching style is non-traditional, pushing the athletes to their breaking points, the team appreciates the challenges he puts in front of them every day in practices and competitions. While the team had a rough beginning, losing four athletes due to various differences, the current athletes continue to improve.
Koestler came to Knox to experience a new culture and said it was a great opportunity for him and his wife.
“The team is looking really great. I am very happy with their progress. They are doing really well, handling the workouts really well,” Koestler said.
Senior Meaghan Dorsey explains Koestler’s unique coaching style and says that the improvements are not here yet, but the team will be seeing progress soon.
“Coach K does many things different from what our team is used to. One major difference is his emphasis on training through the earlier meets in the season,” Dorsey said. “He specifically told me, ‘I want y’all to reach your breaking points. And then I want y’all to push past that, like I’ve done before.’ It feels impossible when we’re at our breaking points but hopefully we will come out stronger because of it.”
Sophomore Alex Baker said in an email to TKS that the new training program implemented by Koestler will build up the program for future years.
“When compared to previous years, our new coach has increased the intensity of the training and the time commitment that is required for our sport, which I believe will take the team towards a positive future as we should start to move up in the conference in the coming years, especially as the team grows,” Baker said.
Junior Diego Morones agrees that the coaching style of Koestler has helped him and helped make the team more disciplined overall.
“He has morning practices every day and this has helped us with our strength and form work. This is positive for our team because it helps us stay disciplined and improve our times as we go through the season,” Morones said.
Dorsey says that a lot of the team has been struggling after the devastating loss of the team members that quit.
“There was a rocky start with Coach K, as an overwhelming majority of our team felt like quitting in the first week. We had communication problems and four of our teammates ending up quitting,” Dorsey said.
Baker said his time has decreased a minute and a half in practices this season alone and this can be attributed to the coaching and new training Koestler has introduced to the team.
“He sets time goals for each individual runner during our speed practices so that each runner is challenging themselves and improving,” Baker said.
Baker also believes the freshmen have been a huge asset to the team, specifically Iris Berto.
“The real star of the cross country team is [Berto]. She has been very successful so far this season scoring 10th at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and top 15 at the Beloit Olde English classic race. She has fallen into the place that Rho Katz ‘18 left after graduating last year, and I think that in a year or two she’ll be setting school records and be a strong leader on the team,” Baker said.
Dorsey agrees with the compliment for Berto, and says there are other freshman runners that also contribute.
“We also have two runners, Blake Geisler and Rachel Corzine, who don’t necessarily score in the meets but contribute to our team in other ways like making practice fun,” Dorsey said. “Our other freshman, Jevon Stephenson, is training through the entire cross country season in order to prepare for indoor and outdoor track where he has potential to score in the middle distance events like the 800m.”
There are many team and individual goals that the team touched on. For Baker, he hopes to cut down his times by the end of the season.
“I want to try and continue to improve with every practice. My long term goal is to increase my average race pace from a 6:10 mile pace to a 5:59 mile pace by the end of the season,” Baker said.
For Morones, his goal is similar.
“I want to hit all my times during my workouts and get stronger as the season progresses. My long term goal is to stay healthy and be able to compete at a high level at every race,” Morones said.
Dorsey said there is no official team goal, but staying on the team is her main focus.
“But our unofficial short term goal is to just make it to the end of the season. Many of us have been reaching our breaking points, as Coach K wants, and we are just trying to find the motivation to keep running,” Dorsey said.
Dorsey also said the women just want to keep their place in conference.
She also said the men’s goal is a bit more high-stakes, as they have to have enough runners to even score at conference.
“A cross country team requires five runners to score and they have been struggling to keep five runners healthy enough to score,” Dorsey said.
The cross country teams will compete on Friday, Oct. 5 at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa after a long break.