By David Zheng
In the span of the past three years, the men’s track team has been through two different coaches. Chuck Koeppen, who led the team to the State title in 2000, coached his final year of men’s track in 2008 and was replaced for two years by social studies teacher Will Ellery. With the 2011 track season under way, social studies teacher Kenneth Browner plans to take the reins of the men’s track team as its new head coach.
Despite the numerous coach switches, Browner said he does not think the athletes on the men’s track team will have difficulty adjusting.
“One thing I’ve noticed about the student body here at Carmel is that they just do what they’re told,” Browner said. “They don’t ask a lot of questions, but just do it and believe it and have faith that it’s going to work for them. I don’t think (the coaching switches are) going to affect what I need to get done here at all.”
Ellery said he resigned at the end of last season because of family responsibilities. “My kids are all involved in baseball and soccer and basketball, and now I have a fourth one who needs a lot of attention just being a newborn,” Ellery said. “(My children) are of an age that you have to make some decisions – it’s either you get to participate in their events or do your own. You have to make some difficult choices, and (resigning) is just simply a choice I had to make.”
Browner, who is currently president of the Indiana Association of Track and Cross-country Coaches, has a lengthy resume of experience. Browner has also been at Lawrence North High School for 20 years, serving as its men’s track coach for five, and he said he thinks this experience will benefit him.
“I think being track coach at Lawrence North will definitely add to things that I can plan to do because every setting is different,” Browner said. “All that experience will allow me to at least make a quicker adjustment to what needs to be done here.”
Additionally, according to Ellery, he and Browner have known each other for years. Ellery said he has talked to Browner quite a bit and has helped Browner with the transition from Lawrence North to Carmel by dealing with organizational aspects and introducing him to the athletes.
“(Browner) certainly knows what he’s about,” Ellery said. “He knows how he wants to go about coaching here and he’ll just carry on the way he would were it his own team from last year.”
Senior Justin Batten, who ran varsity for the men’s track team last year, said he thinks the team will ultimately be able to manage. “It’s been tough not having consistency, but we had a really good coach last year with Coach Ellery so I think it’s still fine,” Batten said. “It hasn’t been that hard for me to get along with the coaches, and I’ve talked to Browner and he’s a really good guy so I don’t think adjusting should be a problem.”
In his bid for a State championship, Browner said he plans to run the team a little differently than Ellery did last year. “I want to do a lot more team building because I want these guys to believe in one another as they’re going to believe in the coaching staff,” Browner said. “I’m also going to make sure (the athletes) understand not only the events but the mechanics, the biomechanics and all the other things involved in track and field.”
Batten said he thinks Browner’s new approach will help the athletes get used to the inconsistency in coaches on the men’s track team.
“It’s a good thing he has a lot of good feelings about this team,” Batten said. “I think this approach he’s looking to take won’t be as easy as usual, but it will be fine because we’ve had a lot of changes in the coaching at Carmel.”
Ellery said, no matter what, there will always be aspects of the men’s track team that need improvement. “Track’s a little different in that it’s a team sport in terms of scoring but it’s made up of a bunch of individual efforts,” Ellery said. “(Browner) has some tremendous pieces back, but there are also great challenges in that there are a couple teams in the state that are fantastic and still loaded, so he’s going to have his hands full.”
Browner said he plans to ensure that this school scores as high as possible in all events this season. “I just want to change the mindset a little bit,” Browner said. “Carmel’s always been known as the distance school, and track’s kind of been the thing that we do to get ready for cross-country or football.”
Batten, however, said the team focused more on other events last season, and he thinks that focus will pay off this year. “We’ve been really distance-oriented in the past, but I don’t think that’s much of an excuse anymore,” Batten said. “We had a lot of our other athletes showing up in the tournament last year, so I think we can expect as much out of them as the distance guys this year.”
In the end, though, Browner said he sees a lot of potential for this year’s track season. “I’ve got a pretty good coaching staff that Coach Ellery left behind and I see a lot of potential in who’s coming back from last year’s team,” Browner said. “I just want the community and the kids to understand that they give out a trophy in June, and we’re going to try to win it.”
“I think the track team, even with the new coach, will be different,” Batten said. “But we have a lot to look forward to this year and it will be a really successful season, and we’re looking to carry on a good tradition through this year.”