Picking up the pace

Despite the hurdles the global pandemic has forced athletic programs to jump, Devin Monson plans take a run at his new title of Director of Operations for Cross Country and Track and Field.

Cathryn Salis, Reporter

Stepping into a title as impressive as Head Coach of Men’s and Women’s Cross Country and Director of Track and Field Operations is intimidating enough, but when you add on the global pandemic and a huge incoming freshmen class, tackling this new role becomes an impressive feat.

Devin Monson was recently promoted to this position after having been the Head Cross Country Coach since 2016. Monson was a cross country athlete from 2008-12 while he was a student at Hamline. He came back to be an assistant coach in 2015 and was promoted to head coach after his first semester. 

A hamline cross country athlete competing

Senior Helen Dolan travelled to Louisville, Ky. last year in order to race in the NCAA DIII championship race. She was joined in Louisville by Hamline graduate, Fernando Benitez. Both athletes earned All-American honors. Dolan is the third member of Women’s Track and field at Hamline to earn this title. Dolan is one of many students who are active in both Track and Field and Cross Country.

While he admits the switch would have been much smoother without the pandemic, Monson is positive that the future seasons will be better. 

“It can never be easy to start a new position and then you throw COVID on top of it, it just means I have a few more late nights,” Monson said. 

He is committed to his vision he sees for the team, and he is not afraid to make the changes he sees necessary. “I’m going to go 100% in on that, and if it fails, it fails, but I’m not going to go half in,” Monson said. One example of this is his approach for recruiting new athletes to Hamline’s program.

To recruit a player, Monson showcases the one-on-one coaching style that his programs operate with daily. “I want to make sure their visits are important and they get to see everything that comes along with it,” Monson said. He makes sure the potential athletes get to interact with the current athletes and get to see the program in depth. “It’s my athletes selling the program,” Monson said.

While he was not recruited solely by Monson, Josh Lynch, a first-year pole vaulter for Hamline, recalls one of the most important aspects of his recruiting experience. “The emphasis was in the right place for practices,” Lynch said. “My decision was more academic. I wanted to run track, and go to college, but track was still second.” 

Monson recognizes the importance of this distinction, encouraging a balance between track and school. “One of the things that I have to learn, too, and try to do my best with, is making the most out of athletes’ time while they’re here because they have a lot more than track and field going on,” Monson said. 

The athletes are meshing well despite cross country and track being mostly individual sports. Monson recalls that his least favorite part of college was the “get-to-know-me games” the athletes would play. “Really in the first two weeks all I expected them to do was get to know each other’s names,” Monson said. “I think by the end of the third week I think everyone knew everyone on the team… they’re starting to learn their names even more but it’s happened a lot more organically.” 

These positive changes have already created an overall sentiment of community within the team. “The dynamic of the team has shifted a lot. There’s a lot of people who left before that came back,” said senior Nyjah Willis. As a returning member of the track team, Willis is experiencing these changes firsthand. “Everyone wants to be here and everyone’s working hard and pushing themselves, which is great,” Willis said.

An image of Nyjah competing in a throwing event.

Senior Nyjah Willis makes a throw in a Track and Field meet that took place last year. The majority of scheduled meets were cancelled due to COVID-19 last season. Currently Track and Field has no scheduled meets. Cross Country has had all of their meets postponed until the spring.

While the responsibilities have multiplied for Monson and his promotion has earned him an exciting new title, he has responded very well and fostered the growth of a great community of athletes. “He seems like a leader and a coach, but he also seems like another guy to talk to,” Lynch said. 

Monson wants to provide his athletes with a space to become the best version of themselves they can be. 

“Our sport, being an individual sport, you get out what you put into it,” Monson said. 

Five of seven athletes from last year who were planning on competing at the indoor nationals have returned for another season, hoping to earn the title of All American and potentially a national title. “You never know what happens when you surround yourself with a bunch of people who have a passion,” Monson said. The track and cross country team is thriving under Monson and, provided their season takes place this crazy year, we expect exciting outcomes from the program.