The bittersweet season for St. Ambrose track and field has finally come. This year, Coach Dan Tomlin will say goodbye to 11 seniors that have been leaders on his team for four years. They have broken records, qualified for nationals and carried the team during their time at SAU. But they’re special to Tomlin for another reason: these 11 seniors were the first recruits Tomlin brought to SAU. He will say goodbye to the eight men and three women who embody what the SAU track and field program is today.
“These seniors helped build this program to what it is today,” Tomlin said. “These kids bought into the everyday commitment.”
Tomlin says he started his first recruiting class out with high expectations of a year-round program requiring summer running, fall workouts, and lifting in addition to the indoor and outdoor seasons.
“We had the same expectations as some Division 1 schools,” Tomlin said. “Their commitment to track was always first.”
This commitment from all the athletes has led to another successful season, Tomlin said, with several athletes breaking records at every meet and six men qualifying for nationals already.
Tomlin says he is looking forward to the Midwest Collegiate Outdoor Championships on May 6 and 7 to see more of his athletes break records and succeed, but acknowledges that conference this year will be a dogfight.
“It just makes it that much more rewarding to win conference when it’s tough competition,” Tomlin said.
In addition to looking for another conference win, Tomlin says he’s looking forward to John Darmody becoming the most decorated athlete in SAU track and field history. Darmody has been an All-American in the past, and a win at conference would make him a four-time All American.
Darmody has always been a big performer for the SAU track and field program. Tomlin says one of his favorite moments of this record-breaking season was watching Darmody’s race at nationals when he led the field and dared other runners to compete with him.
“It was very inspiring to see him make that into an honest race,” Tomlin said. “There’s a swagger about how he competes.”
But the SAU track and field program isn’t just about the past four years. Tomlin says he’s also looking for next year’s recruiting class to fill big shoes left by the graduating class.
“We have a great recruiting class coming in, and I hope that these new kids can step it up,” Tomlin said.
The new recruiting class includes a high-jumper from Rochelle, Ill., that Tomlin says could break the SAU record for high jump.
Tomlin also says he’s looking for big things to come from next year’s female recruiting class.
“We’ve done a nice of job of having a balanced recruiting class,” Tomlin said. “We’ll cover a lot of bases.”
Tomlin says he sees some future national qualifiers in the recruiting class.
As the track season winds down and Tomlin watches his first recruiting class leave, he says he’s sad to see them go but happy to have had such great athletes.
“St. Ambrose is a great place to grow as an athlete, student and to make great friendships,” Tomlin said, “and those seniors have really shown what four years at St. Ambrose University means.”