Athletes in post-collegiate Olympic development program give back to young aspiring runners by sharing leadership and expertise
MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL, Minn. - Six Team USA Minnesota distance runners coached either high school or college cross country teams this fall, including Antonio Vega, Jon Peterson, Heather Kampf, Meghan Peyton, Jamie Cheever and Chris Rombough.
Vega, Peterson and Kampf coached Twin Cities area high school teams which concluded their seasons at the Minnesota State High School Cross Country meet on Saturday, Nov. 3. Peyton, Cheever and Rombough are working with collegiate teams that will have their final championship meets by mid-November.
Vega was previously an assistant boys cross country coach at a south suburban Twin Cities high school and this year was named head boys and girls cross country coach at the Academy of Holy Angels, a private school in Richfield. "Coaching high school cross country is a fun and rewarding job although stepping in as a new head coach was pretty challenging," said Vega, who was the 2010 USA Half Marathon Champion and USA Track & Field Long Distance Runner of the Year.
"I most enjoy sharing my passion of running with others and seeing improvements that an athlete makes. Having a kid not be able to run a mile without walking at the start of the season to being able to run for an hour straight is the biggest reward as a coach. Plus seeing the enjoyment that kids have when they discover the sport of running is a great experience."
New Team USA Minnesota member Peterson, who graduated last June from the University of California, Davis, started his coaching duties in August when he moved to the Twin Cities. He was the assistant coach for the Edina High School boys cross country team, which placed second in the large school state meet. "Being entirely new to Minnesota along with being a new coach, it took some time to become acquainted with the team and each of the individuals in how to help them train to their potential," said Peterson, who was a Big West Conference cross country champion and has run 13:41 in the 5000m. "I most enjoyed seeing the team progress throughout the season and seeing the pieces come together as they continued their training."
At Apple Valley High School, Kampf marked her third year as assistant girls cross country coach. "The biggest challenge at Apple Valley this year was our numbers since we graduated 13 seniors last year," said Kampf, who is the 2012 USA 1 Mile Road champion and was seventh in the 800 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials. "We're putting a lot of time into recruiting up-and-coming middle schoolers and tapping into athletes who don't play a fall sport, so hopefully we'll grow in the years to come.
"I was proud to send my first athlete to the state cross country meet this year but most importantly, I enjoy being a 'life coach' in addition to being a running coach. I believe that if I can guide my athletes to be healthy, confident and happy young women, I have done my job regardless of how they perform. It's so fun for me to share my own experiences with them and watch them apply it to their own performances and succeed."
Peyton and Cheever are both assistant coaches for the men's and women's cross country teams at Augsburg College, where Team USA Minnesota coach Dennis Barker is the head cross country coach. Peyton is in her third year with the teams and Cheever is in her first season at Augsburg. "It is so much fun to be involved in the sport at another level," said Peyton, who is a top competitor at distances ranging from the mile up through the 10 mile. "There is little that is more rewarding than to see those you coach succeed and overcome adversity."
According to Cheever, the athletes had some great performances at the conference meet and are looking forward to DIII regionals and nationals. "The part I most enjoy is spending time with the athletes and getting to share my experience and expertise," said Cheever, who was sixth at the 2012 USA Cross Country Championships and was in the steeplechase finals at the U.S. Olympic Trials. "I feel rewarded when an athlete has a particularly strong race or runs a PR."
Also coaching collegiate athletes is Rombough, who is in his third year as the volunteer assistant men's cross country coach at the University of Minnesota, which competes in DI. While at the U as a collegiate athlete, Rombough won the Big Ten Cross Country Championships.
About Team USA Minnesota
Team USA Minnesota is based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Formed in 2001, the purpose of the training center is to improve the competitiveness of post-collegiate American distance running and to develop Olympians. The athletes are coached by Dennis Barker, head cross country and track coach at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. Team USA Minnesota's major sponsor is Life Time Run (LifeTimeRun.com) and its silver sponsor is Twin Cities In Motion (TCMEvents.org). It is also supported by the New York Road Runners and the USA Distance Project. For more information, visit the team's web site at TeamUSAMinnesota.org.