BELGRADE — The Belgrade Panthers cross country program has a new head coach in former assistant Matthew Hommel.
“I know a lot about running, it’s one of my passions," said Hommel."To get this job is an amazing opportunity.”
Hommel brings a ton of experience. He ran at the NCAA Division I level with Eastern Washington. He had success in the program after entering as a walk-on.
“I didn’t know if I could run in college coming out of my high school and I wanted to try," said Hommel. "I had a coach one time tell me if you want to run in college, you can, you just have to find the right place. I just wanted to make an impact. Turned out I did. I ended up being the number one runner for a couple years."
A big thing that he hopes to have for the program is continuity, but what he also wants to see from his athletes is them building relationships with each other.
“Camaraderie among the kids, getting them to reach out to each other," said Hommel. "Reach out to me in communication and reaching out to other kids who might be interested in running.”
The plan is to combine Belgrade’s track and field long distance runners with the cross-country athletes so they can have one distance program to prepare the athletes.
“In my experience, having a distance program is what really separates the great teams from the good teams," said the new head coach. "That’s how we can make that next step to be competitive in AA.”
For parents, Hommel wants them to know their kids are in good hands if they come out for the team.
“We're a team, but we’re also like family here and if you bring your kid to this program -- even if they not be a 14-minute 5k runner, they’re going to get better," he said. "Where they start to where they finish is going to be a big growth, big improvement.”