TERRE HAUTE —
In the case of many college coaches, when they leave one school to take a job at another, they have to pack up their belongings and move to a new home.
Not so with Geoff Wayton, who left Indiana State to become head coach for the NCAA Division III Rose-Hulman men’s and women’s cross country team and an assistant to Larry Cole for its men’s and women’s track and field program. Wayton’s hiring was announced Aug. 12.
“It’s only a four-minute commute for me to go to work,” said Wayton, who lives near Deming Park with his wife Jessica and their new son Kurt (born Feb. 21). “Work is actually closer for me now than it was when I was at Indiana State. It couldn’t have worked out any better.”
Saving on gas money isn’t the primary reason for Wayton switching employers, however.
“I was exposed to the Division III level a few years ago and I was awfully impressed,” he explained. “Division III became an attractive ideal. It puts athletics in a good perspective and Rose-Hulman is a great place to work. It’s just a good fit for my family.”
Wayton spent the last eight seasons on the Indiana State staff, where he primarily oversaw the sprints and relay competitors. In 2012, he stepped in to coach the men’s distance runners as well.
“I see a lot of parallels to what I was doing at Indiana State already,” he noted.
Wayton, 36, happens to be an experienced meet organizer as well. Since 2008, he’s served as meet director for the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s cross country national championships (except for 2012 when it didn’t take place here).
He also has served as meet director for the Nike Cross Nationals Midwest Regional Championships since 2007 and served as assistant meet director for the 2009 NCAA Division III Great Lakes Regional Championships hosted by Rose-Hulman.
Wayton was active in alumni affairs at ISU, founding the Sycamore Track and Field Alumni Panel, the Sycamore Cross Country Alumni Reception, the Sycamore Track and Field Alumni Reunion and Sycamore Senior Day.
Now he’s focused on helping Cole guide the Engineers.
“I had two great coaches to be mentored by at Indiana State in John McNichols and John Gartland,” he mentioned. “Now I’ve got a chance to be mentored by another one in Larry Cole.
“It’ll be a whole new range of experiences with Division III. … Larry’s got a wealth of knowledge and a different perspective.”
Wayton essentially replaced Cole’s son, Matthew Cole, on the staff.
The younger Cole, who accepted a head-coaching job with the Wisconsin-River Falls cross country and track programs this summer, had been the women’s cross country coach and track assistant at Rose-Hulman for the past seven years.
One of Matthew Cole’s prize pupils was recently graduated women’s high jumper Liz Evans, who captured five Division III national titles with the Engineers.
Meanwhile, Larry Cole used to be the Rose men’s cross country coach. But he’ll assist Wayton this season, even though he is Wayton’s supervisor in the athletic department.
Back in Wayton’s own running days, he became the first ISU distance runner to capture an individual conference title in the Missouri Valley Conference outdoor track and field championships (1997 at Illinois State). Also, he was twice named all-district in cross country and was named to the MVC’s All-Centennial Team in 2007.
After graduating from Indiana State in 2000 with bachelor’s degrees in English and geography, Wayton took part in the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Attitude Training Study in Dallas and Park City, Utah. From 2001-2002, he served as head coach of the Academy of Holy Angels’ boys and girls cross country and track teams in Richfield, Minn. In 2005, he became head coach of Northview High School’s girls cross country and track teams.
Not surprisingly, Wayton is rarin’ to go on a new season as coach, which starts Sept. 14 with the Sycamore Invitational at LaVern Gibson Championship Course.
“Each school has its own particular arena in competitiveness,” he assessed. “In HCAC [Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference] men’s cross country, I can see us giving [nationally ranked] Manchester a run this year. Larry left me a very talented group of young men. … We’ve got a small group returning on the women’s side. We’re going to have to recruit hard there in the next few years.”