Barry McNamara  |   Published August 24, 2016

Powerhouse Season

Haynes has a track record of inspiring excellence in his athletes

Remembering how James Wilson ’16 finished in his final track meet at Monmouth College is as easy as 1-2-3-4.

And it wasn’t just any track meet. It was the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships, and Wilson’s four All-American finishes (two individual events, two relays) – which included a national title in the long jump – accounted for 29 of Monmouth’s 32 points. That was good for a third-place finish for the Fighting Scots, just one point shy of second.

Wilson also placed second in the 400-meter dash (46.97), third in the 4x100 relay (a school-record 40.78) and fourth in the 4x400 (3:12.67). Pole vaulter Dan Evers ’18 scored the other three points at the meet with a sixth-place finish (16’4-3/4).

Monmouth’s high outdoor finish was not out of the blue. The Scots had placed fourth at the NCAA indoor meet, with Wilson again bringing home four All-American honors, including three in individual events. Other indoor All-Americans were Evers and Joe Ward ’16 in the pole vault, Ethan Reschke ’17 in two sprints, and relay runners Matt Trainor ’16 and Adam Parr ’16, who teamed with Wilson and Reschke.

But going back to when this season’s seniors were recruited, one could make the case that two top four national team finishes was indeed a surprise.

“Of all the men who competed at the national level, only Timmy (Williams) came to us with an acclaimed high school career in terms of a bunch of state medals,” said coach Roger Haynes ’82. “The majority of our team – men and women – didn’t come in with eye-popping numbers. Those outside our program don’t know what it’s like. I have very high expectations of them, what they do daily, weekly and on weekends. What our All-Americans have done is put in consistent, hard work and then performed under pressure situations. Matt Trainor is a prime example. He’s calm and understands what we’re doing as well as anyone I’ve coached, and that includes national champions. He’s not the most talented on the team, but he’s one of the most important guys on our team because of his work ethic and demeanor.”

Of the seven men who earned 22 All-American awards this year (Williams is the other), three will return next season, giving fans optimism for another successful year. But to look to the future, one must first look to the past.

Of the 130 All-Americans in the history of the men’s track and field program, all but two have come under Haynes’ watch, which spans more than 30 years. Haynes’ teams have also churned out 10 national champions.

“The credit always goes to the student-athletes,” said Haynes. “It’s such a fine line between being very prepared or unprepared, and that’s physical or mental. They have such a belief in what we do and in themselves that when the time comes, we’re going to be ready.”

Not so fast on the credit, said Wilson, who is the most decorated man or woman in Monmouth track history with 15 All-American honors.

“I came to Monmouth not really knowing anything about track since I didn’t start until my junior year of high school, and I couldn’t have asked for a better coach,” he said. “Coach Haynes saw something I didn’t believe I had in me with running and jumping. He helped me with everything, on and off the track. I found another family at Monmouth with my coaches and a number of teammates.”

In reality, it takes both the student-athletes and the coaches.

“I was proud of how the guys conducted themselves,” said Haynes. “We didn’t have great lane assignments in the relays, but the guys didn’t say anything about that until the day was over. They just went about their business. This particular group handled the pressure at the national meet extremely well. Running that fast and finishing that high in the relays has been a dream of mine for a long time. All the relay guys made that happen this year. That was a lot of fun for me.”

Wilson’s impact didn’t only come from his fleet feet. The senior also took Williams, a talented freshman, under his wing.

“James spent a lot of time in a leadership and mentoring role with Timmy,” said Haynes of the young sprinter, who was part of the All-American 4x100 team along with Wilson, Reschke and Parr. “I’m seeing and hearing Timmy act and do the things James is doing. I’m proud of him running on the school record 4x1, but I’m most happy that he ran a scored well in the 100 and had a lifetime-best in the 200 meters at the conference meet. He’s come along way as a track athlete and if he can find the focus James has, he’ll be very good before his career is over.”

Wilson, who had captured the 2013 indoor long jump crown, earned his second national title on the outdoor meet’s opening day with a personal-best mark of 24’5-1/2. The senior nearly became a three-time champion, finishing second in the finals of the 400-meter dash while setting his lifetime-best in back-to-back races. Leading coming out of the final turn, Wilson was edged at the tape by five one-hundredths for a runner-up finish.

“No one in the country takes on the same load of events at the NCAAs as James,” claimed Haynes. “He’s willing to take on challenges and has a lot of fun with track. People away from our program don’t give him enough credit for his work ethic and belief in the program. Sure, he’s got athletic ability, but it’s that drive and willingness to do whatever the team needs that sets him apart.”

Reduced to a near afterthought during the indoor and outdoor track seasons was Monmouth’s two Midwest Conference team titles. The Scots men won both league meets, while the women turned in a pair of runner-up finishes.

Three returning All-Americans will give the Scots plenty of reasons for optimism in 2017, and there could be even more to look forward to from Monmouth athletes.

“I don’t believe it’s my time to stop running just yet,” said Wilson. “I believe I can go further with track in my life. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done in my track career without Coach Haynes, so however far I can take this, he’ll be right there with me.”

And he’ll be right there with next year’s team, too.

“You don’t have to be an All-American to be a success in my eyes,” said Haynes. “Men and women who come in less heralded may in fact go out on top. Dan Evers came in as a 13’0 pole vaulter and is now well over 16’0. The same thing with James. He came in as a 50.8 4x400 relay runner in high school without any state medals. Now he’s the most decorated track kid in the history of the program. I’d tell potential track kids to come and get involved. We’ll surround them with good people and have a plan. We’re going to coach the heck out of them. It’s not easy, but if they stick with it, they’ll find some rewards.”

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