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
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,”
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
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
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.