Ever since Jason Fast stepped in as head coach, the cross-country running program at Lawrence has been turning heads. National champion as a runner at UW–Oshkosh, Fast has had quite a successful and interesting career. After winning as an athlete and having the privilege to compete against greats such as Ryan Hall, Fast explained in a most amusing story how he set his sights on coaching as a career.
His competitive nature once again propelled him to the top spot on the Division III national podium soon after being named assistant coach at his alma mater. There has been no stopping the victorious nature of Fast as he has made both the men’s and women’s cross-country programs at Lawrence two top contenders in the Midwest Conference.
Fast has been head coach at Lawrence since 2009 and led the men’s team to a MWC Championship in the 2011 season.
First off, your last name – Fast: how do you think that name has defined you as a cross-country athlete and coach?
“It has definitely been back and forth. On good days and when I had been running well, it was useful. People would be shocked and came up to me often after meets asking if that really was my name. But also, when I hadn’t been running so well people would call me Jason Slow or on the playground as a little kid. Even today some of the other coaches will jokingly call me Coach Slow”
How have the recent track seasons been? Are there any specific goals or objectives that have changed coming into this season?
“The men for the last four straight seasons have been no less than second in the conference, and this year we’re hoping to bring it home again like we did in 2011 and we have a team that is good enough to do it too so … the great part about the whole thing has also been the emergence of the women’s team.
The women’s team two years ago finished eighth in the conference and then last year, they finished third. This year they also have a shot to win. It’s nice to be able to tell both teams they have the same goals. What is even better is that we are hosting the conference championship. We have the chance to keep the trophy here in town, so that is both teams goal to win a conference title.”
From what I’ve heard, the cross-country team is pretty close. What have you done to promote and create such a tightknit group?
“A lot of it has to do with your upper classmen. The upper classmen lead the freshman when they come in and I always encourage the upper classmen to take on a protégé, sharing things with them such as their mistakes, successes and more. Make them feel welcome every year, but a lot of the bonding comes in the pre-season when they are on campus with nothing to do other than train, eat and sleep. You have a lot of time to really forge friendships and bonds.”
Did you have any superstitions as an athlete and now as a coach?
“I had a pair of shorts I always had to wear at my meets. They were Orlando Magic shorts, they were the old-school ones too; the really light blue ones. I called them my magic shorts, when I put them on I was ready to make some magic. My coach thought it was the goofiest thing. Now I’ve pretty much grown past that and concentrate more on representing the team in the best way possible.”
Lastly, what do you love the most about coaching at Lawrence?
“Working with my team. Given that we have such a close-knit team, I love working with every individual on my team. I recruit a lot of competitive people because I am so competitive myself. I love being surrounded by like-minded individuals. The other really cool part of my job is seeing people grow. You see them come in as confused freshman and how over the course of four years, they blossom into mature adults.”