2013 Cross Country
Brandts have programs on right track
Bluffton University’s cross country and track and field programs have undergone a positive transformation since Karen and Jim Brandt became the coaches in 2011.
In the last two years, the teams have broken many school records more than once, and numerous personal records have been set. Bluffton track and field records now include eight outdoor marks set either in 2012 or 2013—five by women and three by men—and 13 indoor records established during the same two years—nine by women and four by men.
Karen Brandt said her programs’ student-athletes “are hungry to be taken seriously.” During her first indoor track season at Bluffton, the women’s distance medley relay team won the event in school-record time at the Heartland Conference meet. “What made it delicious was that no one was expecting it,” she said.
Earlier this month, the men’s cross country team climbed to a third-place finish at the conference meet. The goal for next year is to win and, further, to be a competitive team in NCAA Division III, the Brandts said.
Their excitement for the future lies in athletes who have talent, dedication, aspirations and potential, they said. That group includes Jeff Parker, a junior from Bristol, Ind., who was the conference champion in the javelin throw his freshman and sophomore years.
The Brandts came to Bluffton from Pennsylvania because they “wanted a place we could believe in,” Karen said. They were looking, they said, for an institution that embodied the principles by which they live and coach: good academic reputation and athletic equality.
Karen works with professors to monitor the academic success of her athletes. Added Jim: “We want our teams and athletes to be good at the sport and simultaneously be really good people.”
“Coaching is a multifaceted thing,” they agreed. “It is a combination of ability, pursuit of academics and character development.”