The best coach you’ve never heard of: Oliver Hanf, CSU Chico

When you think of DII Track and Field, you probably think of St. Augustine’s or Abilene Christian (if you think of anything at all).  Those two universities combined have all but one of the Men DII championship titles in the last 30 years.

Of the 168 DII scholarship schools, my Alma Matter CSU Chico  has never won a DII title (I also ran for CSU Northridge and was lucky enough to be a part of the runner-up team in 1990).  But in recent years, CSU Chico has started to make waves in several events…one being my favorite, the Decathlon.  Here’s a quick look at some recent results:

chico_dec_x41999: Trevor Papp: 3rd
2000: Trevor Papp — had best score in nation, but missed nationals due to an injury
2001: J.J. Nobel: 1st,  Erick Knight: 6th
2010: Talor Fulfer: 4th
2011: Talor Fulfer: 5th
2012: J Patrick Smith: 1st, John Brunk: 4th
2013: J Patrick Smith: 1st, Theodore Elsenbaumer: No height in PV cost him 2nd.
*Moreover, J Patrick Smith, Theodore Elsenbaumer, John Brunk, and Adam Nikssaria (who qualified provisionally, but missed going by 25 points) are all returning this year.

In January, I caught up with the driving force behind this success: Oliver Hanf (affectionately known as Coach O).  Joining us for a quick 45 minute chat (we could have talked for many more hours) was John Brunk to lend the athlete’s perspective.  Here are some paraphrased excerpts that you might find interesting.

What’s special about Chico Track & Field?

One thing that Kirk Freitas has always done is endeavored to create a “team” in an individual sport.  In our sport, there’s such differences “of events” and therefore often times personalities, it’s tricky to “mesh it”.  So you try to come up with ways to do that. One thing we do is have athletes occasionally warm up with different groups.  In two weeks from now, we’re going to have a 140 person game of duck-duck-goose; six circles of 20+ random athletes….and the runner has to change circles.  It’s team building.  The very next day, we have our inter-squad Cardinal and White meet.  There’s always a theme and this year it “Animal Kingdom”.  Last year it was “Superheroes and Villians”.  Everyone has to dress up.  We photograph all that stuff, we post it to Facebook.  The idea is to connect.

I ask this tongue in cheek, because we know there is no such thing, but what is your secret?  A special workout or weight program?  Something that you do that you think others might not.

The one hour decathlon.  It’s gives us something to latch onto in the fall.  We’re working towards May, but it’s a little stepping stone.  It’s something you have to gear up for a little bit.  It’s right after Thanksgiving.  I’ve wanted to do it for years…the guy that told me you “just do it” was Kip Janvrin.  John went over 6,200 this year, which was better than last year…but his teammates went nuts.  Teddy was insane.  It is the single most impressive practice session I’ve ever been at.  He [Teddy] was so dialed in.  Talking to him prior to it…he had this quiet confidence.  He ended up going over 6,500.

[John later mentioned a couple of his favorite workouts]: We do a workout called the Dollar and a Half.  It’s an 800m followed by four 400m.  Not sure what the rest is, but it’s 12m or so.  We do this twice a year and it’s kind of a milestone.  My freshman year I ran slow 2:20 followed by 64s.  This year I ran sub 2:10 followed by 56s.  Another workout I love is our flying 100m.  I’ve run in the 11.3s in meets, but I run 10.1ish in the flying 100s.  It really gets you pumped to run that fast.

What about the weight room…do you do anything special there? 

We’re not slaves to the weight room.  During the off-season, we hit it harder.  When I was an athlete, I had to hit the weights daily.  I swore by them.  But now I feel like you can get strong in lots of ways.

This year we included more core work.  Physio ball stuff — planking, instability stuff, single leg balance while doing some resistance training.  These guys were eager to get in push press, snatches, cleans…and we did, but little by little.  We took the routine from the Olympic bobsled team and did it just for a couple cycles.  Then, once the Chico Multi comes…everything after that is maintaining.  You have to manage it all…and you have to draw the line.  Our goal is to be a better long jump…better at the sprints…not better in the weight room.

Categories: Coaching, Decathlon, Heptathlon | Leave a comment

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