Leading a perennially successful track and field program as a new head coach has to be a daunting task, but new Head Coach Bill Jordan is prepared and ready for it.
After 35 years of John Papa at the helm, The Rock track and field is transitioning to a new head coach following his retirement. The hope and vision is that not much changes while a culture of success is maintained. Coach Papa played a large role in the development of countless athletes but also had a large impact on his coaching staff.
“Obviously losing coach Papa is a big loss. He was a great personal friend of mine and a mentor. I learned just about everything track and field related from him. That was invaluable to my development,” Coach Jordan said.
It does not hurt that there a plenty of assistant coaches who have integrated well into their roles.
“He’s moved on now and we’ve got in some other great coaches here, Bobby Over and Tabitha Bemis are just fantastic assistants that have been great additions to the program, and they fit in really well. The kids have really taken to their training styles,” Coach Jordan said. “We’re on the upswing that’s for sure. We’re doing just fine.”
“For the most part, its been business as usual down here… Since I’ve been here for a very long time, I don’t think I plan on changing a whole lot,” Coach Jordan said.
Coach Jordan commented on the athletes’ ability to move fluidly through the transition to continue improving their craft.
“We’re really fortunate to have a lot of great kids on this team,” Coach Jordan said. “We’re just really fortunate to have a lot of great kids on the team and a lot great staff.”
Speaking of some of the great athletes involved in the program, senior thrower John Eakin is returning for his 5th year since joining.
“John is a fantastic athlete, he’s also one of our GAs this year,” Coach Jordan said. “He’s building up, I think he’s gonna have some big throws here in the next few weeks. He’s been training really hard. He definitely has the potential to throw out there and qualify for nationals.”
Eakin holds one of the more distinguished resumes in the PSAC as he is a seven-time PSAC championship qualifier, three-time All-PSAC honoree, two-time PSAC champion, one-time National qualifier, and a 2nd team All-American for Shot Put.
“John is definitely one of our top kids and I expect the next couple weeks for him to start to really shine through there,” Coach Jordan said.
Distance runner Marianna Abdalah is in a similar situation as an established senior with a decorated resume. She is a four-time PSAC championship qualifier, four-time All-PSAC honoree as well as a one-time All-PSAC honoree, one-time All-Atlantic Region Honoree, and one-time National Qualifier for cross country.
“Right now she’s just training and trying to build up for a big outdoor season,” Coach Jordan said. “It will be a huge benefit to her and the team outdoors.”
She has no have indoor season eligibility left, so she will be joining her teammates for the outdoor season which will undoubtedly be a welcome addition.
Those two upperclassmen have been obvious standouts, but there are plenty more who have taken great steps in their development to becoming future exceptional athletes.
“In all honesty, I think a lot of our kids have already put in the groundwork to make huge strides. Bryan Dworek just hit a big jump the other day in the long jump. Some of our freshmen have really stepped up. Sarah Corrie has done really well, and Josh VanDeMark… I don’t really want to point out one kid. All over the place, we’ve got kids that are training really hard,” Coach Jordan said.
The team will only improve overall when they journey down to Myrtle Beach for their first taste of outside competition at the Collegiate Challenge March 10. Getting outside for the first time in a season is key to start revealing students who made large improvements over the winter.
“As a whole, it’s just a great way for a team to come together as a group,” Coach Jordan said. “It really sets the tone of the outdoor season for us and helps us establish a team culture that’s gonna be paramount to winning a conference title, which is our ultimate goal for the outdoor season.”
Perhaps even more exciting will be The Rock’s return home because of how universally enjoyed their outdoor facility is. SRU will be able to open it up plenty early so that high school teams can compete.
“Our outdoor facility is really quite a great place… I personally have a lot of pride in Slippery Rock University and our stadium and it’s so much fun just to go and show it off to the conference,” Coach Jordan said. “I’m very excited about our outdoor facility events.”
There is much to be excited about for the upcoming outdoor season. Coach Jordan has established himself as a prepared and accomplished coach, none of which should change now that he is at the helm. He and the athletes are staring down another successful year.