By Andrew Gregg
Strong leadership and a team-based mentality were crucial to Cuestaâ€™s recent track and field success, according to Cuestaâ€™s award winning cross-country and track coach, Brian Locher.
The 2016 track and field season ended with men winning their first conference championship since 1973, and the women qualifying almost half the team for the state championships. Despite a talented group in 2015, Locher, who joined Cuesta as the cross-country/track coach in 2007, said that their leadership didnâ€™t match that of the 2016 team.
â€œWe knew we had a great team in 2015, we just didnâ€™t get the job done like we needed to,â€ said Locher.
For 2016, Locher said, sophomores and assistant coaches were focused on the teamâ€™s success, rather than individual accolades. They also recognized the importance of being good leaders.
â€œThe freshman that were coming back [to] be sophomores in 2016 saw what it took to be great and rose to the occasion,â€ said Locher. â€œThis helped our freshmen mature faster, and our sophomores and coaches knew what they had to do to keep the team on track to succeed and stay healthy.â€
The hard work paid off, with athletes clocking in impressive times and stand-out performances, according to Locher.
Locher also emphasized the importance of his assistant coach Tara Kulikov, who has been an instrumental source of support not only for himself, but for the athletes as well. He prefers to push his athletes hard, and underscored the importance of discipline and focus for his athletes. When they grow tired of this approach, his assistant coach is there to provide a much needed balance, Locher said.
â€œSometimes they need a female voice, someone whoâ€™s going to take care of all the small things,â€ Locher said. Itâ€™s the small things that really make a difference for the team, Locher explained.
Locher himself fell in love with the sport as a student at Chico State, where he learned to appreciate the work ethic, camaraderie, and toughness that track and field requires. Athletics are a way of instilling discipline, and understanding the commitment required for achieving oneâ€™s goals, according to Locher.
â€œStudent athletes at this level typically need guidance and refinement to reach future goals and become successful adults,â€ Locher said. â€œItâ€™s a privilege to mentor an individual when they are willing to accept what you have to offer.â€
Locher also said he likes to keep in touch with most of his former athletes after theyâ€™ve moved on from Cuesta.
â€œSeeing their success in life and how our program played a small part makes me proud of what I do and who they have become,â€ Locher concluded.