Seeing runners go by at 7 a.m. might spark a few questions. Mainly: why and how?
Well, Maddie Van Beek explains how she used running to deal with the rest of problems: “As a bookworm in seventh grade, I had a hard time navigating sports and people, so I started running. It is simple, easy and fun.”
Van Beek is the new cross country head coach and track assistant coach at Concordia College, and so far, she loves it.
Van Beek grew up in Perham, MN, and she has lived in Fargo, ND since 2010. She graduated from North Dakota State University in 2015 where she ran cross country and track. After graduation, she was the assistant coach at NDSU until last year. She has been coaching for six years now; however, this is her first year as a head coach.
“I initially wanted to be a teacher and a coach,” she says, “but as the years went on, I realized how much I enjoyed running and decided to continue running. I love running, I love encouraging people, seeing people achieve their goals and get to points they didn’t think was possible.”
Despite graduating with a double major in English and English Education, many of Van Beek’s works in and after college were focused on cross country and track. According to the MIAC athletes website, she was one of the most decorated distance runners in the Division 1 history of NDSU. Additionally, Van Beek was named the Summit League Track MVP three times during her career, and she earned the NCAA All-American honors in 2015 when she finished eighth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
“The steeplechase was my main event in college. I liked it because it requires the same mentality of cross country and track — to essentially be able to deal with ups and downs.
Van Beek says her degree has helped her a lot in her career as a coach too.
“It kind of goes hand in hand with teaching, honestly. I think a lot of the skills that you learn at going to school to be an educator apply really well in the coaching world.”
Van Beek had an exceptionally successful career as a student athlete. According to the MIAC website, she finished her college career with a 4.0 GPA. She was also named the Summit League Scholar Athlete of the year for all sports in her final season. Having gone through the experience for being a student athlete, she acknowledges the difficulties her students go through.
“I am not just a coach for the athletes, I am here as a resource for student athletes; they are students first and athletes second,” she says. “I care about getting to know them as people and not just as runners.”
She also said it is mainly because of this supportive environment constructed by the coaches that she chose to work in Concordia.
“When I came here for my interview, I got the feeling of how awesome of a community it is. I could just tell that people genuinely cared about each other. Like, if someone sees you confused, they will offer help,” she says. “The first couple of weeks, I must have always looked confused because everyone offered to help.”
Not only has the student body shown warm hospitality towards Van Beek, but also the staff members.
“I enjoyed meeting our athletic director, Rachel Bergeson. She is just incredible. She really seems to care about every coach and every sport and I think that holds true to every coach here,” she says. “I got to meet President Craft in my interview, and to me that was huge that he wants to meet each coach. People are invested in you.”
Van Beek also shared her thoughts regarding the recent accomplishment of Concordia in acquiring an “A” grade on the report by the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport.
“The fact that we got an ‘A’ on that report is incredible. Women usually stop playing sports after high school, and I think that is sad because sports have taught me how to be a leader, to have confidence, to deal with disappointment and to celebrate small progress.”
Moreover, Van Beek illustrates a great impression of the Concordia cross country and track team she is working with in her first year. The men placed fifth at the conference meet, the highest they have placed since 1999. The women placed seventh.
Aside from major successes, Van Beek has also developed a closer connection to the student athletes. She has been able to get to know them better through team meetups at practice. Even though track and cross country does not require much group practice, Van Beek insists on working together to help each other improve.
“When you are alone, it can get really difficult. But when you are with a teammate, you can learn to get the most out of each other,” she says. “I have seen that come really well together.”
“Coming into this year, I didn’t know what to expect, but Maddie made everyone on the team feel welcome,” says Rachel Friberg, senior track and cross country runner. “We as a team have seen so many improvements, and I am excited to see what is to come with the indoor and outdoor track season.”
Kelly Lorenz, another track and cross country runner, agrees.
“She really likes the bond with the team. It is a hard sport, but the teammates make it better. Van Beek knows what she is doing, she is supportive and wants to get to know you,” says Lorenz.
Van Beek expresses that team camaraderie is a value she has seen play really well among the Concordia students athletes.