NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Gerry Sieber might have officially retired from coaching soccer at Bethel College, but he’s not ready to slow down.
In fact, he plans to keep running – literally – and to coach others in running. Bethel president Barry C. Bartel announced recently that the college’s administrative cabinet, on recommendation from athletic director Diane Flickner, has accepted Sieber’s proposal to revive Bethel’s cross-country program.
“We recognized that cross-country complements the current track and field team and also fits the philosophy of the broader athletic program,” Bartel said.
Sieber brings his own long-standing interest in and participation in competitive distance running, as well as considerable track coaching experience. He was Bethel’s head track coach from 1998-2002, and earlier served 12 years as head track and field coach for Hesston College and two years as head cross-country coach at Tabor College in Hillsboro.
When he was coaching track at Bethel, Sieber urged the college to start a cross-country program. Marc Friesen, a Bethel graduate, coached cross-country for two years, but was not replaced when he left after the 2004 season.
At this point, Sieber said, “there are maybe five or six women and four or five men interested in running cross-country. They’re quality runners, and that’s a good number considering how late we got started. My goal is to have eight to ten each of men and women by fall 2008.”
For fall 2007, he said, “I want to have a good, competitive group the first year, to provide a good running experience for every runner, and to build the program.” He plans to focus hard on recruiting.
“A real plus for the cross-country program is the great training environment at Bethel,” Sieber added. “There are three miles of scenic trails – wood-chip and dirt – around Sand Creek.” Sand Creek Trail adjoins the North Newton public golf course, where Bethel runners trained in the past and where Sieber hopes they’ll be able to run again during the winter months when there are few golfers.
Sieber coached men’s soccer at Bethel for 13 years, beginning in 1994, in addition to starting the women’s soccer program and coaching track for five years. He was also an instructor in health and physical education.
“I wanted to stay involved, not go into full retirement,” he said. “Cross-country fits many of my personal interests. It is not as high-stress or as demanding as soccer – it’s very much an individual sport rather than a team sport.”
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. In sports, Bethel is part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC). For more information, see the Bethel web site at www.bethelks.edu.