Cross country welcomes new coach

The women’s cross country team competes during 2021. The Bulldogs will start their season Sep. 10 at the Les Duke Invite against Grinnell College. Submitted Photo.

This summer, Collin Nurenberg was hired to replace Schwegler as the head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country teams. 

Tim Schwegler, former Truman State University cross country and track & field head coach, died suddenly this past April during the middle of the track & field season. 

“[Schwegler’s passing] was a very sudden thing,” sophomore Cora Stimpson said. “It was hard for me to come to terms with. As a team, it created a unique bond because we were able to grieve and experience his loss together.”

“It was a surprise to all of us,” said senior Nathan Key. “When something like that happens in the middle of a season, it’s especially tough. It hit the team very hard.” 

Schwegler, a Truman graduate, coached at Truman starting during 2006 and took over as head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country and track & field teams during 2013. 

His runners remember him as passionate and caring.

“When I was trying to decide what school to go to, coach Schwegler was the deciding factor,” Key said. “He was honest and upfront about everything, which really appealed to me.” 

“He always wanted the best for his athletes,” Stimpson said. “He really brought the team together in a lot of different ways.”

After being an assistant coach at Wayne State University and Northwood University, this is Nurenberg’s first head coaching job. He will also serve as an assistant coach on the track & field teams. 

Entering after the passing of a long-time coach can be a difficult transition, but Nurenberg is ready to hit the ground running in the new season, he said. 

“I benefitted by coming in after the summer,” Nurenberg said. “I think the athletes had time to process [Schwegler’s passing]. It seems like everyone is focused on moving forward and seeing what we can do this season.” 

Nurenberg worked quickly to acclimate himself to the team, hosting a team Zoom to introduce himself and meeting with each athlete individually. 

Both teams responded well to Nurenberg’s new leadership style. 

“It’s a different dynamic than we had with Schwegler,” Stimpson said. “Coach Collin is a lot closer to our age and relates with us more, where Schwegler was more of an authority figure. [Nurenberg] has hosted a lot of team bonding activities this summer. He is focused on the team aspect.”

“He jumped in right away,” Key said. “He made it a point to hold team bonding activities and wanted to get to know us better before the season. He relates to us a lot more, and the team has really responded well to that.”

Nurenberg chose to come to Truman because he found similarities between the University and his alma mater, Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan. Saginaw Valley is a similarly-sized public school in a rural area. 

Nurenberg said he’s focusing on building a good team culture and program in the long run but thinks it is the athletes that drive team culture, not him. 

“I think it’s interesting that they [highlight] my team building efforts because I think a lot of that really comes from them,” Nuremberg said. “The athletes are what drive that. This is a group that really enjoys being together. Of course, it’s my job to present opportunities for them to do that, but it’s really them who take charge.”

Looking ahead to the fall cross country season, the Bulldogs will aim to return to the Div. II national championships for the first time since 2004. 

The Bulldogs will have a slightly easier road in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championship and the Div. II Great Lakes Regional meet this year as Lindenwood University and University of Southern Indiana, two of the top teams in the conference, moved up to Div. I. 

Nurenberg, with an eye to the future, had each cross country runner fill out a goal sheet for this year to set high standards for themselves and the program.

The men’s team, featuring six true freshmen runners, will be a very young group,  Nurenberg said. 

Key, in his final season, commented on his goals for his last year after finishing 24th at the cross country conference championships during 2021, four places below an all-conference recognition.

“I want to get all-conference this season. I would also love to get on the all-academic team for this season,” Key said. “For the team, with a new coach and six freshmen, you really just want to see improvement. I think they want to build towards the future and try to build our program up for seasons to come.” 

On the women’s side, the Bulldogs have a more experienced group, with only three freshmen. 

After a successful freshman season in which she placed 54th at the GLVC conference championship, Stimpson has her goals set high.

“I really want to make it to nationals,” Stimpson said. “Right now, we are a long way from that, but that is where we want to be. For our conference, we want to be top three this year.”  

“I also want to learn how to be a better leader for this team,” Stimpson said. “I want to set an example both this year and in the years to come. I think this is a really crucial time in changing the team culture, and I want to be a part of creating a new era for Truman cross country.”     

Nurenberg was also excited to get to work on building up the Truman program. He said another reason he was drawn to Truman is the University’s winning history and he wants to get the program back to a national pedigree. 

Since he was not involved in the recruiting for this year’s class, he has already begun his recruitment process for next year. 

“We have had eight campus visits for prospective runners this semester already,” Nurenberg said. “[Recruiting] is a top priority for me right now because I want to build the depth of this program back up. Right now, we have 12 runners on each team. My goal is to have 20 per team in the near future.”

Like his runners, Nurenberg has high expectations for the upcoming season. 

With two schools departing the conference, he is confident in his team’s ability to compete in the GLVC this year.

“I think we can accomplish more than people expect,” Nurenberg said. “On the women’s side, with a more experienced group, I think they can finish top three in the conference. I think the men, especially with so many freshmen, will take their lumps, but it is a great group to continue to grow with.”

The Bulldogs open their season Sep. 10 at the Les Duke Invite at Grinnell College.