ALUM HIGHLIGHTS: MIKE WILSON
LFP Cohort Class: 2010
Major: Biblical Studies (Minor: Anthropology, Sport & Coaching)
EU Leadership: Founder and leader of Run 4 Kenya, Cross-Country Captain, Resident Advisor, Track & Field Coach at Conestoga High School
Michael Wilson is a 2010 Eastern graduate. Although originally from Akron, OH, Mike currently lives in the Wayne area with his wife, Val, who is also an Eastern Graduate. During his time at Eastern, Mike competed in cross country, and ran unattached with a running club in track and field meets in the spring semesters. He was also the founder of a campus group called Run 4 Kenya. They used half marathons and trail-racing events to raise more than $10,000 to support freshwater and education-based initiatives in Nairobi, Kenya. "We didn't have a clue what we were doing when we started it, but it was fun to learn, screw things up, figure it out, and see others enjoy the process of being involved in something outside the campus walls."
Please tell us a little about your work since graduating from Eastern.
Since graduating, Eastern has given me the opportunity to pursue what I love. Over the course of the last few years, we have steadily built a cross country team, as well as a newly-instituted NCAA track & field program. I coach both the men's and women's teams. It has been a process, but I wouldn't trade it. I have an unbelievably talented assistant coaching staff and, without them, none of what we do would be possible. I started coaching as a part-time coach at Conestoga High School during the spring of my senior year at Eastern. I was asked to stay as an assistant for Eastern's cross country programs in the fall of 2010, and I was hired as the head coach of the program on a part-time basis in 2011. I worked full-time in the Undergraduate Admissions Office for 5 years, and during that time, we started building track & field. In the summer of 2015, Eastern announced the addition of track & field as an NCAA-sponsored sport. This is our 1st full indoor season and our 2nd full outdoor calendar.
How has your involvement with LFP influenced you?
My involvement with LFP made me very self-aware...I credit Tess Bradley, the director of the program at the time, for helping me figure out how to work on my strengths and become aware of my weak points. I was a pretty stubborn 18-20 year old, so I'm sure it took some patience on her part...I learned a great deal about followership, servant leadership, how to influence, how to communicate well, and how to reconcile my faith with a lot of tough questions. It was a great forum in which to discuss tough issues with a bunch of bright individuals - some who were quite like me and others who were not. In that setting, I learned a lot about myself and how to use my gifts to serve others.
What are your plans for the track and field team?
I'm extremely competitive. I want to see our programs grow quickly, both in size and in depth. We have 40 freshmen on this year's roster, and it's incredible to see such a young group working so hard. Conference championships sound nice, but I think our program is far more interested in moving to the national level...
Now, I think that goes hand in hand with two things that are extremely important as we build the culture of our team: excellence and character. We want to build young men and women of character who expect excellence of themselves and of each other, no matter the situation. That is a long-term process. No amount of tweeting inspirational quotes or instagramming workout pictures ever got a kid on a national podium. We expect that our athletes show up early, stay late, and work hard at something. We don't have a track. Figure it out. We don't have indoor space to practice vaults. Figure it out. Saturday mornings are for working harder, not for sleeping in. They'll experience failure alongside victory. They'll realize other people are talented too, and that wishes are very different than goals. They learn sacrifice, team-work, humility, endurance, perseverance. More importantly, they learn that these things matter off the track and, when they tie that all together, they start to realize character. So, yes, we want to win. As we do it, we want to do it really well. We have a very long way to go, but we're off to a decent start, and there is a lot of energy around our young team. Looking forward to seeing what they can do!