McKenna named top coach

Michael Johrendt

Head coach Eamon McKenna was named the 2015 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Cross Country Coach of the Year while overseeing both the men’s and women’s teams. McKenna said cross country is more than the sport he coaches. For him, it is an honor to live out his dream. “Being able to serve as coach at UW Oshkosh, a university and community that did so much for me when I was a student-athlete is a dream job,” McKenna said. “I never would have thought that I would be so fortunate and blessed to be in this position to give back to our current student-athletes.” Back in 1999, McKenna joined UWO first as a student with an interest in teaching Spanish in public schools and second as a cross-country runner. His career spanned from 1999-2002 as a part of the cross country team and from 2000-2004 as a member of the track and field team. McKenna said he could not have reached higher peaks, both academically and athletically. “I had so many wonderful experiences as a student, athlete, and community member here at UW Oshkosh,” McKenna said. “Including going through our wonderful Scholars Program, the school of Education, and earning a Spanish degree, winning a NCAA Championship as part of the men’s 2002 cross country team, and serving as a religious education teacher for those with special needs, among many more great memories.” After graduating from UWO, he became an assistant coach for the men’s cross country team in 2003. He later moved on to coaching at the high school and private college levels before making his way back to his alma mater in 2012 to assume the head-coaching role. When he arrived at Oshkosh, he was tasked with running the men’s cross country team, which had had its share of ups and downs in the years leading up to his coming home. McKenna led a team that took home 11th at the Midwest Regional, as well as having a runner earn All-American status at the DIII Championship. For the 2015 season, his role grew. He was tasked with leading the women’s cross country team, in addition to the men’s team, which he had already led. McKenna said being a coach is at times only a title and not necessarily a defined role. “Being a coach is a huge responsibility,” McKenna said “As is being a teacher, a mentor, or serving in any role in which you are tasked with guiding other human beings. I view myself as a servant to our student athletes and to our university community as a whole. Being a coach of two teams and overseeing both genders is busy but very rewarding.” McKenna said he views running as a medium to help his runners become better people. “My goal is to be a great role model,” McKenna said. “Although I falter and fail to live up to my own expectations at times, like most of us do, it is important for me to convey the message that we all must live in a way that we desire. It is not our job to live up to the expectations and goals of others but to live up to our own goals, expectations, dreams and passions. Whether it be in academics, athletics, social life, family life or any other endeavor, let’s be the people we want to be.” Senior Leah Rendflesh said what makes coach McKenna who he is, is how much he cares about the runners he coaches. “He’s a great coach,” Rendflesh said. “He truly cares about his athletes and has helped us become better athletes and people.” With McKenna at the helm, the men fielded a team that took home two regular season meet wins, a fourth place and subsequent at-large bid to the DIII Championship at the Midwest Regional and a final-race 13th place finish while facing 32 of the nation’s top DIII college’s cross country teams. For the women, they recorded three first place finishes, a second place finish and automatic spot in the DIII Championship at the Midwest Regional, and a strong 15th-place spot at the DIII Championship in Winneconne. The women also had a first-place individual finish at the UW Oshkosh Open. McKenna said one of the main facets of being a coach is the joy that comes by seeing the progression of the runners throughout their careers. “It is an incredible joy to watch our runners progress throughout seasons and over the course of a career,” McKenna said. “It is difficult in some ways, as the relationships we form can be so strong and positive, that it is hard to see it end when athletes graduate and move on, but it continues to be rewarding at the same time when you see those athletes have continued success post-college in their running, professional lives and family lives.” McKenna said seeing the growth of the runners makes coaching worth everything. “Witnessing the individual growth of our student athletes, not just as runners, but as teammates, as people, seeing them grow as leaders and students, is so powerful and is a great motivator to continue working hard and enjoying the process,” McKenna said.