When I was in sixth grade, we were running a timed mile in gym, and I kept repeating it until I could beat everyone's time. My teacher, Tom Stambaugh, took notice. He coached track for the high school team. I was already interested in running, but every time after I ran the mile in gym, he would ask me for my time. His attention to my efforts made me try to achieve a new goal each time, and he eventually encouraged me to join track. I didn't know at the time that I had one of the best coaches in the state guiding me to my new passion.
Tom Stambaugh grew up in Minnetonka with his family. He grew up with a dad who was not a particularly nice guy. At the age of fourteen, he started running to feel better about himself and his life. Back then Stambaugh (as we call him) just ran for the fun of it. He often jokes about how he would stop at the local ice cream store for fifty minutes and would only do half the actual workout.
By his junior year though, he started taking running more seriously, and began running well. Once he graduated, he went to Golden Valley Lutheran College for two years. The coach at Golden Valley told Stambaugh if he ran well, he could get a scholarship for running to a 4-year college and transfer. That was where he learned what real work was. He started running up to 120 or so miles per week, and he started getting noticed as being a good runner. Soon, his efforts caught the eye of Coach Don Larson of North Dakota State University, and he offered him a spot. Once he had finished his two years at Golden Valley Lutheran, he transferred to NDSU. This is where he got taught the most important lessons of his running career - that you can win under pressure, and your coach can also be a friend. Stambaugh eventually went on to be an All-American, and is still ranked as one of the three fastest at NDSU for the 5k and 10k.
After college, he got a sponsorship from by Nike (Prairie Striders club), and he was in the Reebok racing club before that. During that time period, and in his life in general, he ran over forty marathons. He even qualified for the Olympic marathon trials in 1985, finishing 24th. But after running at the Olympic trials, he decided to take a break from running and start a family. He still ran to stay in shape, but had stopped doing serious races. However, after his second child was born, he started training again. He kept on training for different races. In his forties, he dropped everything and moved to Nevis, Mn. He started teaching in Nevis and has since made a big impact on his students, myself included, and has always encouraged them to always do their best in whatever their heart desires.
But Staumbaugh isn't the only reason I person I want to share about who has made a big impact on my life. This story is about TWO amazing coaches! The odds of getting two coaches of such high caliber are pretty slim for a small town of 400 people like Nevis. However, the odds must have been in our favor!
The second coach, and Stambaugh's best friend, is Doug Hanson. Both have had struggles and setbacks, but also memories that will never fade. In addition, they both have inspired many kids, including myself, to be great runners.
Doug Hanson started his running career in Kenyon, Minnesota. He started running because he liked the 600 meter run in his school's fitness test. I met him while I was in sixth grade when he walked into my class to talk to Stambaugh. It was in the middle of winter when I met him, and I remember he said, "It tastes like honey, but it's not" (if you don't get it, try reading it out loud with a northern Minnesota accent).
Unlike Stambaugh, Doug took running seriously right away and tried his hardest from the start of his running career. He had major determination and talent, and in 1985, Doug won the Minnesota State Championship in cross country with a time of 16:05. After he graduated, Doug went straight to NDSU (he came a few years after Staumbaugh graduated) and became a seven-time NCAA Division 2 National Champion. He also has one of the top three fastest times in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at NDSU still to this day. There are a lot of notable awards and experiences that I didn't mention, but those are the ones that shaped him as a runner.
A few years later, he moved to Texas to work as a mechanical engineer. In a little less than ten years, he would move to Nevis. There he met and started a friendship with Mr. Stambaugh when they both built houses on the same lake chain. They both had the same builder, who connected the dots and helped introduce them to each other. They eventually started training together, became great friends, and ran a lot of local races.
Doug continued to run and compete until February 3rd, 2004. On that day, the day after his 36th birthday, he was riding a snowmobile when he crashed into a tree. He was in a drug-induced coma for a few weeks. Nobody knew if he would come out, or what condition he would be in when (or even if) he came out. Miraculously he fought his way back, and at the beginning of March 2004, he went from intensive care to the rehabilitation unit. Sadly, the crash made it so he couldn't run again. But ever the competitor, Doug challenged himself to stay active, taking up biking and beginning to coach for Nevis Track and Field. His persistence in track became an inspiration and helped him overcome every runners' worst fears. That is what a real coach, and a real hero, looks like. When I think of reaching my end goal, and don't want to run weekend miles, I think of the determination and persistence Doug possesses. He inspires me and my team to keep going and trying our hardest. In case you read this, thank you! He is a true inspiration for every runner.
The next step of both their lives entwined. They both started coaching Nevis Track, and eventually had a great runner come through the mist. That runner was Bryon Schuldt. They coached him from his first year in seventh grade all the way to his senior year, and he is one of the few male athletes in Minnesota that ran all six years at the State Track Meet. During his freshman year, they started a cross country team for Nevis High School for the first time. And after four years of cross country, they helped him achieve what every talented runner dreams to achieve: a state title.
Doug and Staumbaugh helped Bryon achieve his dream. Now, they are helping my team achieve our dreams. They have helped me and my teammates by showing us what it takes to be a great runner and person. These, for me, include: humor, hard work, passion, how to train, and how to run a smart race. On our daily runs they tell us their experiences, goals, and how they got there. They have also helped us by telling us their stories and knowledge of the sport. They have went out of their way to make sure everyone, no matter age nor speed, has goals and achieves them. They do this at the start of every season by asking us what we want out of the experience. Some want merely to be in shape for basketball, while others do it more competitively. Stambaugh always says he is just as proud of the person who achieves their goal time as he is the person who gets to State.
Now, Stambaugh is training for his last marathon and is gunning for the Minnesota sixty-year-old 5k record. Meanwhile, both coaches either run or bike with us daily. We hear hilarious stories about their experiences as runners daily, which shapes us as runners. They would probably disagree if you ever ask what sport is better. Stambaugh would say track; while Doug would say cross country. They taught us how to achieve our own goals. Overall, both coaches have inspired me to be the best I can be, and I hope after I wrote this they will inspire you too.