RAPID CITY, S.D. --- After nearly 30 years at the helm,
South Dakota School of Mines cross country head coach Jerry Schafer will be stepping
down and handing the head coaching duties to his former assistant Steve
Johnson. Schafer will remain as the head
coach of the Hardrocker track and field program and will still be involved with
Hardrocker cross country as the Director of Cross Country / Track and Field.
“I still have oversight over the cross country program, I’m
just no longer the head coach,” Schafer said. “Steve and I have essentially
switched roles in the fall. This gives me the opportunity to focus my time
strictly on the track and field teams.”
Johnson has been the Hardrocker assistant coach for cross
country and track and field for the past five years. This will be his first
opportunity to assume a head coaching position and will continue to perform his
assistant duties during the track and field season.
“I am looking forward to my expanded responsibilities with
our distance runners in the fall and I’m excited that I will continue to be
able to work with our jumpers, javelin throwers and 400- and 800-meter runners
during the track season.”
With the hiring of new SD Mines Athletics Director, Joel
Lueken, and the institution joining the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference
(RMAC) this fall, Schafer said this was the perfect time to make the transition
which he feels will benefit both programs.
“Since I’ve arrived (in Rapid City), Steve’s passion, hard
work and efforts toward the program has been evident,” Lueken said. “When coach
Schafer suggested the coaching move, I felt confident in Steve’s abilities to
guide and build the Hardrocker cross country program to be a competitive force
in the RMAC as well as the NCAA.”
With a conference affiliation and a strong administration,
Schafer felt everything was in place to make the transition.
“This has been on my mind for some time,” Schafer said.
“With the new AD coming in and the Hardrockers now competing in the most
competitive conference in NCAA Div. II, the timing was right and I feel
confident in Steve’s abilities to lead the XC program in the right direction.”
The SD Mines cross country and track and field programs will
be among the first to be a part of the RMAC and compete for conference awards
and post-season titles.
“Both the men’s and women’s programs have made huge strides
over the last few years and I’m excited about leading them in their RMAC debut
this fall,” Johnson said. “We have some terrific student-athletes returning and
have some pretty strong runners coming in as well.”