After forty-four years of coaching cross-country Jack Hazen could certainly retire. Yet, Hazen said he has no such plans.
“I can’t retire now. I love what I do too much. I get to train and travel across the country with young athletes. It really does not get much better than that,” Hazen said.
In 1966, Hazen started out coaching track at Malone because the cross-country program had been canceled a year earlier due to a lack of runners. There must be a minimum of five runners for a team. The cross program had only four athletes willing to run.
Determined to bring back the cross-country team, Hazen took drastic measures to get the athletes interested in running.
“I literally went into the dorms and knocked on doors and asked students if they would be willing to run,” Hazen said. “I told them they would be able to travel all over the country with the sport.”
Eventually, Hazen’s recruiting efforts paid off. He finally had enough runners to comprise a team. He said that in the beginning things were rough and the team was not very good.
In his second year of coaching the team went to a meet that qualified them to go to nationals. The best team there was from Central State University. The race officials discovered that the runners from Central State had cut the course and ran the wrong way. Unfortunately for Central they were disqualified.
“We got to go to nationals on a whim. Malone had never even sent any athlete to Nationals,” Hazen said. “We were pretty excited.”
The team had no money to even travel to the meet and there was an announcement made in Chapel concerning their financial trouble.
From the message, professors and students contributed and the team eventually raised enough money to make it to Nationals. That first race was held in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1968 and the team was unsuccessful at winning Nationals until 1972.
Being a cross-country coach was not in Hazen’s original plans. When he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Asbury, his plan was to become a football coach.
He went on to get his masters degree in anatomy and physiology from Ohio State University. It was here that he met the famous Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes.
“I was lucky to meet Woody. He got me my first coaching job at a school in Mount Vernon,” Hazen said.
Hazen started out at Mt. Vernon as a football coach, but in time the school came to him and asked him if he would like to coach track.
At the time he said he knew nothing of track, but the pay was good so he decided to give it a try. The school board then decided they wanted to start a cross-country team.
“We had a few good distance runners to start with,” Hazen said. “I found that I really enjoyed coaching running and decided to stick with it.”
A few years later, one of Hazen’s athletes that had graduated came back to him and told him about a position that had opened up at Malone College for a track coach.
“I went in and applied for the position and got it and I have not left since,” said Hazen. “I don’t play golf or do anything else. Coaching is really like a hobby for me. I get paid to do my hobby.”
Through Hazen’s coaching tenure he has improved the program drastically. The cross-country team now competes against Division I universities such as Michigan, Penn State, Akron, Ohio State and Notre Dame.
To illuminate on his success, during his time at Malone Hazen has coached nearly 200 NAIA All-American athletes in cross country or track and field. This outstanding number is almost 2/3 of all NAIA All-Americans in Pioneers athletic history.
Also Hazen coached teams have won five NAIA National Championships, four on the men’s side and one on the women’s side. The highlight of five championships coming from the men’s “three-peat” from 2007-2009.
Well Hazen is obviously a terrific coach; he also connects well with his athletes. Senior exercise science major Bryan Eckenfels said that Hazen is an inspiring coach.
[pullquote] “I really enjoy having Hazen as a coach. It is easy to see that he really cares about the runners on the team,” Eckenfels said. “He is so willing to help runners in every area of their lives.”[/pullquote]
Hazen attributes the team’s success to good athletes and a strict training regimen. “We have top rate runners, who train hard during the week,” Hazen said. “Without good athletes you cannot have a winning team.”
Each year Hazen attends different conferences for running to learn more about the sport. He has met Olympic coaches in the past and uses similar training programs for his athletes.
To avoid retirement Hazen keeps himself in shape by running 2 miles a day 7 days a week.
“As long as I am healthy and able I will be coaching young athletes,” Hazen said. “It’s what I love to do.”
Christina Graw is managing editor and contributing writer for The Aviso.