Leap of faith leads men’s cross-country assistant to Iowa City


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Like the runners who compete, cross-country coaches don’t often lead the glamorous lives their counterparts in collegiate football and basketball do. They don’t enjoy the same coverage as major American sports, nor the same recognition.

In the case of Iowa assistant coach Tad Hulst, there isn’t even a paycheck.

“Yeah, I just moved down here without a job,” he said. “I talked to [head cross-country coach] Larry Wieczorek on the phone a few times, and then met with him last winter.

“We had many of the same running philosophies.”

The interview resulted in Hulst moving to Iowa City — a move he has been quite pleased with.

“I love it here,” he said. “The whole big-school atmosphere is totally new to me. The football team is doing so well. It reminds me of my hometown [in Holland, Mich.], only instead of everyone being 60 years old, everyone is 20.”

Hulst is in his first season as a collegiate assistant coach, where he splits time between physically running with the team, carrying around equipment, and acting as a researcher for Wieczorek come recruitment time.

“He can’t recruit runners off campus,” Wieczorek said. “But he can host runners if I need him to, and he helps me find prospects.”

At 24 years old, Hulst helps Wieczorek coach the squad when it is on the run, literally, running alongside the team every practice. The 2007 Division-III All-American helped lead Calvin College to a national championship in 2006.

“He really keeps practice moving along,” said cocaptain Tommy Tate.

When he isn’t helping Wieczorek coach the Hawkeyes, Hulst is helping disabled Iowa City residents at his other job — his paid one.

“I work for the Mayors Youth Empowerment Program,” he said. “We help disabled Iowans learn skills that can hopefully make them more independent. We teach them how to be part of the community.”

The job, which he said takes up around 35 to 40 hours a week, is his first experience working with the disabled. The necessary monetary reward is not the only one he has received through working with the organization.

“It’s a completely new experience for me,” Hulst said. “I could see myself doing this for a while.”

But that’s not Hulst’s only long-term plan. The reason Hulst approached Wieczorek last winter, the reason he ventured from Grand Rapids, Mich., to Iowa City in the first place, was to pursue his biggest goal — coaching in college.

“Being under the guidance of coach Wieczorek has been important for me,” Hulst said. “He’s produced a lot of talent and had a lot of great results over the years. He has made a lot of connections over the years. If I keep helping the team and learn the ropes, I could be set up well someday when I want to become a head coach.”

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