Heisler: Future Bright for IU Track and Field
June 1, 2006
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - After an illustrious college track and field career that included three Division II national titles in the shot put and discus at the University of Indianapolis, Randy Heisler moved to Bloomington in 1984 to train professionally. It is a transition that is still paying dividends to this day.
"I have evolved from a guy who moved here to be an Olympic athlete (1988 shot put and discus) to being the Director of Track and Field at IU," Heisler said. "(Hall of Fame coach) Sam Bell was gracious enough to take me on board as an assistant, allow me to recruit and become part of the Indiana family."
Heisler served as an assistant coach from 1989-98 before taking over as the head women's coach in 1999 and then as Director of Track and Field, overseeing both men's and women's track in 2003. He says that college track and field has undergone a major transformation during his coaching career.
"High school track used to be viewed as offseason conditioning for football or training for other sports," Heisler said. "At the college level, it has gotten to be very specialized - we have 110 men's and women's student-athletes in four major disciplines - the throws, the jumps, sprints and distance events."
With such a large number of student-athletes competing in such specific events, Heisler has assembled a first-class coaching staff. They will take 14 men's and women's student-athletes to the NCAA Championships June 7-10 in Sacramento, Calif.
"I am unbelievably fortunate, as is IU, to have this staff in place," Heisler said. "Three of the assistants (Wayne Pate, Ed Beathea and Robert Chapman) have been regional assistant coach of the year, national assistant coach of the year or a candidate for national assistant coach of the year. They all have Indiana ties and left good programs to come here, because this is where they want to be."
It has been a collective effort to build Indiana's national track and field presence.
"Our quality has shown up at the national level," Heisler said of Indiana's seven top-20 NCAA men's and women's indoor and outdoor team finishes. "We're fortunate to have everything we need to win - elite athletes, knowledgeable coaches and facilities that are second to none."
Naturally, success breeds success, and Heisler said that this weekend's Indiana High School State Championship meet in Bloomington is an invaluable recruiting tool.
"There is a perception that if you want to go to as powerhouse track program, you have to go south," Heisler said. "The state of Indiana has a lot of really good track and field athletes. On our men's 4x400m relay team, three of the four guys (All-American David Neville, Ryan Smith and Doug Dayhoff) are from Indiana, and they ran the fifth-fastest time in the nation at last week's regional meet. Just as it doesn't hurt us to look at the talent in the state, it does not hurt us to have the talent in state look at us as a viable option.
"Between the Indiana Relays (featuring high school teams) and the state meet, we do everything that we can to show that we're a viable option for elite high school athletes. We had a state champion from (Indianapolis) Pike, John Gunnell, walk-on here because he had such a great experience here at the state meet."
In addition to a quality education at a beautiful campus located in a vibrant community, Indiana has enjoyed all-around success in track and field.
"Look at our national champions and Olympians. We have had them in each of the four major disciplines," Heisler said. "We're not a specialty program. The only thing that has kept us from winning nationals is that we have not had those elite athletes at the same time on the team. We have come close to having that, and that is what we `re working towards."
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