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Schwinn running strong program

by Baxter Cepeda, Sports editor


In her three years as head coach of the men and women’s Sea Warrior cross country program, Vien Schwinn has assembled squads capable of contending for Division II National Championships. The move to hire Schwinn, which can now be safely called a good one, was made by recently retired Athletic Director Tony Sellitto and current Athletic Director Russell Dung.

Schwinn ran for HPU in 1991-92 and coached ‘Iolani’s cross country and track and field programs in 1998-99. “That’s basically where my coaching started,” Schwinn said, referring to her ‘Iolani experience.

At HPU, Schwinn double majored in Enterperneural Studies and Management before graduating in ’93.

After graduating, Schwinn worked as a manager of the Spa Health and Fitness Center on ( ). She also owned and operated her own company, Body Link, Inc., “Basically managing health and fitness for First Hawaiian Bank,” Schwinn said. “That’s why I have a lot of experience and knowledge in health and fitness, physiology, anatomy— all that stuff.”

She retired from “all that stuff” in December 1997 to do bookings for her husband, a dentist, and to take care of their children, ages 6 and 9. “Ever since then, it’s just coaching on the side,” she said.

Schwinn recalled the events in July, 2000 that led to her appointment: “Somebody told me the school was looking for a head cross country coach.” She talked to Dung first, and he referred her to Sellitto who, after an interview, gave her the job. “That’s how it all started,” Schwinn said.

She added that she believes she got the job partly because she is an alumni of the school. Sellito already knew her. “I guess that made it easier.”

Because she started in July, just before the season started, Schwinn did not get the chance to recruit. “It was a learning year,” she said. “We just worked with the runners who were there. We didn’t have a great team but they did well; they did great.”

After the first season, Schwinn started recruiting, which she calls a “full-time job.” Working out of her home, she was “bombarded with parent’s calls and resumes, prospects here and there throughout the year.”

Like many coaches in programs that cannot budget money for mainland recruiting trips, Schwinn used the telephone, e-mail, and digital pictures to recruit top runners.

Schwinn feels that recruiting for cross country is challenging because the season is so early in the school year. “Somebody can tell you, ‘I can run whatever,’ then they don’t train for a whole summer and there goes the season,” she explained. “It can be very disappointing. It’s a coach’s nightmare.”

Maturity and responsibility are why Schwinn says she likes recruiting transfers rather than freshmen. “It’s hard to motivate someone if they’re not mature,” said Schwinn. “I want people who run year round, who compete on their own in events like road racing over the summer. Some people can’t handle that, and the young ones don’t seem to do that well, so we get a lot of transfer students, which to me is for the best.”

Schwinn said that she currently has four star runners whom she recruited strictly through e-mail, including Senior Christian Madsen and Junior Nina Christensen. Schwinn says that other than the school’s web site, the best way HPU can attract strong runners in the future is by having a strong showing at the Nationals when everybody is watching. “Here (in Hawai‘i) we are dominant, but that is nothing like racing against the best on the mainland.”

Schwinn is pleased with her first recruiting class, which also includes Sophomores Robert Tyler, Chris Larson, Sayuri Kusutani and Heather Postema.

Over last spring and summer, Schwinn signed some solid freshmen--including Rachelle Miller, Masako Sagawa, Herald Buerkle, and Lindsey Woodward.

Although this year’s results show Schwinn has recruited some great runners, things could be better, she said. “The recruiting hasn’t been good. We’re not exposed. I’m not at the big meets where all the coaches are looking at the top runners, and getting them,” she said. “We don’t have the funding to do that, so recruiting, for us, is just on-line.”

One more thing works against HPU when recruiting top-notch runners, Schwinn said: “No track and field. Runners don’t want to just run cross country, so we have that problem,” but that’s all HPU can offer.

Schwinn says that although her program does have limitations, there are advantages. The main reasons people come to run for HPU, Schwinn said, are because it’s basically a good program, a good school with a multicultural environment, in Hawai‘i. Also, it’s a private university; students don’t have to pay out of state tuition.


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