GREAT FALLS — In the last 10 years at the University of Providence, 25 throw athletes on the track and field team qualified for nationals and two of them even reached all-American status. All those athletes practiced and honed their craft right here at the Argo throw field, and all of them were coached by one of the best, Alan Cress.
“Man he’s just somebody’s goofy dad, he’s everyone’s dad on the team,” senior thrower Jillian Sanchez said. "He really cares about us and pushes us to do better.”
The Argo throwing patriarch, Cress, is well-established in his 10th season at Providence, growing a successful program that when he first arrived, struggled to even have the numbers. Fast forward to now, he has five qualifying national marks among four of his throwers this season, the most he’s had in his time here.
“That’s kind of what I wanted to do when I started, make our throwers squad really deep so the program continues to grow,” Cress explained. “This year is the most national qualifiers that I’ve had, qualifying marks so that’s good and it shows we’re going in the right direction.”
Cress is a former college national champion in throws pentathlon and discus. More recently, a masters throws champion. He’s also a member of the National Throws Coach Association, bringing with him years of experience that his throw squad sees firsthand in practice.
“He’s beautifully technical, you’ve probably never seen anyone as smooth as him in the ring,” Sanchez said.
For the underclassmen, like national qualifier in discus, Tatiana Martinez, Cress’ guidance as a coach has helped drastically improve form in just one season.
“He’s here to tell me what I need to throw better and I really appreciate and it helps me a lot more, it helps me to concentrate on those big issues that I have,” she said.
Aside from his obvious technical skill as a thrower and advice as a coach, the throwers gravitate towards their coach’s ability to connect with them on an emotional level.
“When I hit that qualifying mark I turned to him and he screamed, opened his arms and hugged him,” junior qualifier Allyson Conner said. “That’s kind of my favorite part of it. He’s always so warm and welcoming.”
This year, Jillian Sanchez, Tatiana Martinez, Allyson Conner and McKenzie Clark will head to Alabama at the end of May to compete in Nationals, a feat coach Cress’ throwers earned through their time and dedication. Sanchez will compete in hammer throw and discus, Martinez in discus, Conner in hammer throw and Clark in javelin.
“The athletes I have now are showing that they’re buying into that and they want to do it and they want to get better and they’re seeing results.”
The NAIA National Track and Field Championships go May 25-27 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.