By Chris Baldwin
After a collegiate and professional career as a track runner and over a decade in coaching, Head Coach Justin Lindsey knows his way around a track program. He has brought his years of expertise and experience to the College, and found great success which he hopes to continue in order to make the track program a national powerhouse.
Coach Lindsey grew up locally in Ewing, attending the local high school. He attended Rider University where he was a varsity sprinter and high hurdler. Upon graduating college, he ran at the professional level from 2003-2008 where he competed in Europe and qualified for multiple olympic trials.
“I’m a total fan of the sport and have competed at just about every level beside olympic and world championships,” Lindsey said.
After graduation, he was offered a volunteer position at Rider so he could coach as well as train there for his personal career. It was there where he realized how much he enjoyed coaching.
Lindsey’s volunteering turned into a part-time position in 2005 where he continued to coach as well as compete professionally. After Rider, he coached at Princeton University on a part-time basis.
Eventually, he received a call from the College’s track head coach at the time and was offered a full-time assistant position, which he accepted. He worked as an assistant from 2009-2013. In 2013, was promoted to head coach of the program.
In his time at the College, the cross country and track and field programs have seen many years of success. The women’s team has won the conference almost every year, and have never finished outside the top three. The men’s team has only been outside of the top three once, but have finished as champions or in the top three in every other season.
Additionally, the program has had multiple women’s teams compete at the team NCAA competitions, as well as having multiple individual All-American winners. The men have also competed in cross-country nationals on multiple occasions.
“The goal is to be a national-caliber program, and our women are pretty much already there,” Lindsey said. “For the men, it’s to be a regional powerhouse with aspirations of being a national-caliber team.”
As with any successful program, recruiting the right players plays a big role in how the team performs long-term. Lindsey and his staff focus on committed players, and value a player’s personality and character just as much as their athletic ability.
“We look for a complete person,” Lindsey said. “What I mean by that is someone who tries to grow personally, academically and athletically. We’re not looking for someone who can just run fast or jump far. We’re looking for someone who’s going to bring something to the program, that’s going to enhance the program’s chemistry and also enhance everyone else’s experience of being in the program.”
Lindsey encourages athletes to “put themselves in the best position to be the best version of themselves day in and day out.” He expects players to hold themselves accountable, and to assess what could have gone differently when something doesn’t go the team’s or a particular athlete’s way.
Covid-19 has changed Coach Lindsey’s outlook on the team, as he now preaches to players to not take anything for granted.
“Things can be taken away in an instant,” he said. “I try to tell people to really embrace the moment that you’re in and take full advantage of it.”
As with all of the College’s athletic teams, Covid-19 has limited the team’s ability to compete and practice. However, the team has recently resumed practice in the past week in order to prepare for the spring 2021 track season, which will be the team’s first organized competition in over a year.
“What has been the biggest change is that our meets coming up will not be big invitationals, there’s gonna be a lot of protocols to follow, so those things are going to be an adjustment for everyone,” he said. “For the most part, the practicing day to day is fine. It’s all the other logistics outside of it that’s made it more challenging for the staff and the athletes.”
With the cross-country season starting in August and spring track nationals ending at the end of May, Coach Lindsey, his staff and his athletes are busy year-round. Distance runners run all three seasons, and sprinters, jumpers and throwers begin workouts in October. He commends his staff and athletes for staying committed throughout the entire season.
“Our staff do a tremendous job balancing their health and wellbeing as well as making sure the team is managed well,” Lindsey said. “It can be challenging if you’re not organized and preparing all the time. For myself and my assistant Coach Walker, we work well together as far as what he handles and what I handle. It definitely requires a lot of organization and communication.”