99 Years and counting …
While many coaches come and go, that isn’t the case with the Estherville Lincoln Central boys track team.
With the 2008 season, the Midgets’ three coaches combine for 99 years of experience in track and field.
Head coach Dick Barrett leads the trio as he enters his 38th year coaching boys track. Assistant coach Jerry Shultz is the low man with just 27 years in track and throwing coach Dean Truog provides 34 years of experience.
Of those 99 years, the three coaches have spent 53 years coaching Estherville and Estherville Lincoln Central.
Barrett began coaching track at Rolfe. During his 18 years in the small Pocahontas County community, he coached one state champion–a pole vaulter–lots of state qualifiers and earned both district and conference championships.
Of the three coaches, he was the first to arrive in Estherville in the fall of 1987, the year the football team finished second at state.
Now in his 20th year in Estherville, he has kept meticulous records which are displayed outside the gymnasium that show the school’s best efforts.
Barrett keeps track of the top five performances in every event.
In the 2007 track season, ELC athletes made the “Track Honor Roll” in six events:
n The 4×100-meter relay team of Chris Blinkmann, Shane Hallengren, Brad Deling and Matt Watt.
n Matt Juhl in the 1600-meter run.
n Matt Juhl in the 3200-meter run.
n Brad Kesler in the discus.
n Matt Watt in the 200-meter dash.
n The medley relay team of Brad Deling, Matt Watt, Scott Schmidt and Matt Juhl.
Of the 17 track events listed, Barrett has coached 37 of those that have made the honor roll. He has coached all five within the low hurdler category.
Those he has coached with the school records are the top high hurdler, low hurdler, 4×400-meter relay team, shot put, discus and 1600-meter run.
Also among those are three Drake Relay placewinners–Jeremy Truog in the shot put and both Tim Holmgren and Chris Beck in the discus.
Holmgren and Truog both went on to win state titles in their respective events.
The most state qualifiers representing Estherville in any one year was 10 in 1994.
“We had a really good year in 1999 and then last year we had eight qualifiers,” Barrett said.
Obviously all athletes don’t have the same amount of talent.
“Good attitudes and a work ethic can make up for a lot,” he said. “We do testing with the freshmen every year to find their best events.”
Shultz began his coaching in Turkey Valley and won a state championship with essentially three athletes–Mike Bentley, a 6-9 high jumper, Paul Blazek, an almost 23-foot long-jumper and hurdler and a 54-foot shot putter in Brad Baumler.
“I had three kids in the long jump who could jump over 22 feet that year,” Shultz said.
Shultz arrived in Estherville two years after Barrett in 1989 and works mostly with the sprinters and jumpers.
Before Dean Truog arrived three years later, Shultz also worked with the throwers and he helped both Jeremy Truog and Tim Holmgren in their events.
He does see a difference in the track stars of now compared to his earlier years.
“The kids are bigger, stronger faster and run on better tracks,” Shultz said, noting many tracks consisted of cinder.
Listing the attributes of a good sprinter, Shultz said it’s hard to teach speed.
“We work on form mostly,” he said. “Nowadays, sprinters are explosive and weightlifting is a part of it. Handoff technique can also make up some time when you don’t have the speed.”
The basics for a sprinter are to keep the elbows in, have good forward and backward movement and using your knees to drive up out of the blocks.
“You see more sprinters with big upper bodies,” Shultz said. “That’s due to the advancements in weightlifting. Thirty years ago, we didn’t do a lot of lifting. Now we’re always in the weight room.”
Shultz said in the long jump, it helps to have speed, but you also have to have explosive leg strength. Meanwhile the high jumpers need flexibility and good technique.
Truog spent his first 19 years just down the highway, coaching boys track at Lincoln Central in Gruver.
“We had a lot of fine runners and good throwers,” he said.
Truog coached three state champs with Tim Henrikson in the mile, Bob Jensen in both the discus and the shot put and Aaron Ruschy in the shot put.
When Truog came over to Estherville 15 years ago, he took over coaching both the girls and boys throwers.
“My first love was the throwing events and here I could spend more time with where I wanted to be. I’ve enjoyed my years at Estherville,” he said.
While Ruschy was the last boys champion Truog coached, ELC has featured two girls champions–Lorrie Grems and Katie Nelson–and a host of state qualifiers since his arrival.
It’s a rare year when ELC doesn’t have at least one qualifier in a throwing event.
Last season, Brad Kesler placed sixth in the discus.
Truog said technique is the key.
Basics of the shot put are how to hold it, the “turn and the kick” and working in the “slide.”
Discus basics include how to hold it, release and turn it.
“They learn which angle is best for them through practice,” Truog said. “There’s a tremendous amount of technique and it normally takes four years to make a good shot or discus thrower.”
Of those who compete in track today, Truog said, “the kids that are out make a conscious effort to get better. They have a determination and a will to work hard.”
Track and field doesn’t always receive the same recognition as football and other team sports, but this trio returns year after year.
“After 38 years, I thoroughly enjoy being around young people,” said Barrett. “Helping them succeed in their events in track is truly rewarding. I’m looking forward to the spring of 2008 as eagerly as I have every other year.”
The Estherville Relays, billed as the second oldest event of its kind west of the Mississippi River, also holds a special meaning for the coach.
“Being associated with the long-standing history of the Estherville Relays means a great deal to me,” he said.
The Estherville Relays have been held continuously since 1921 with the 87th running scheduled on April 11.