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LOGAN, Utah – One of the longest tenured assistant coaches at Utah State in any sport is hanging it up. Steve Reeder, who just completed his 35th year as the distance coach for the Aggies’ track & field and cross country programs, is retiring.

“It hasn’t quite hit me yet because I still see him every day,” said veteran USU head coach Gregg Gensel, when asked if he ever imagined he’d see the day when he wasn’t coaching with Reeder. “When it hits me, it will be different. He’s been a rock and I’ve been able to consult with him for 30 years, not that I can’t just call him and ask him a few things, but that won’t be his job anymore. That will be interesting.”

When asked why this was the year to finally retire from coaching, Reeder said “it seemed right.”

“I had a good group of seniors this year, so there were less of those athletes that were not graduating,” added Reeder. “That was one thing. Now that my wife, Dona, has retired we have more time together. I’ve missed a lot of things that I couldn’t do because I needed to be at places or coaching. I have two granddaughters in high school and last year one of them was running cross country for Parowan High School. It was her first race and I really wanted to go watch her, but I couldn’t.”

Reeder said he never signed a long-term contract with Utah State.

“At the end of each year I’d talk to my wife and I’d talk to Gregg,” Reeder said. “Most of those years Gregg was the coach and I’d say, ‘OK, let’s do it another year,’ and that’s how it kind of worked out.”

Ultimately, it was the student-athletes he had the honor of coaching that kept Reeder coming back year after year.

“A lot of high school coaches think that coaching college kids must be really neat and the only thing that’s different in my mind is I get to coach the people they prepared, the best of the people they prepared,” Reeder said. “I’ve never felt like I could be as important to an athlete as their high school coach was, because that’s the person that got them started.

“That’s the person that got them interested in the sport and then got them to the level where they’d be good enough to compete in college. But, high school coaches would say, ‘You’re so lucky.’ And I’d say, ‘Yeah, I am. Thank you, because you did all the hard work. You got them good enough to be here and I just benefit from that.’”

To honor Reeder for his many years of service, Gensel put together a surprise retirement party in late May. But that wasn’t the only surprise in store for Reeder that night. It was announced at the party, which was attended by many of Reeder’s former student-athletes, that the cross country course at the Innovation Campus Wellness Park would be named the Steve and Dona Reeder Cross Country Course.

“It really means a lot and I’m not sure it should’ve been that way,” Reeder said of the cross country course’s name change. “Gregg has done so much work on that course. I was kind of kidding about it, but my main contribution was laying the sod down. How many sod layers get to have that kind of thing named after them?

“That was very kind. We had a dinner where that was announced and I was totally shocked. The dinner was a surprise; I didn’t even know about that. There were people there that were on my first team in 1980, several in fact, including Gregg Gensel.”

Gensel was in his senior season when former USU track & field head coach Ralph Maughan hired Reeder.

“I’m sure grateful to Ralph Maughan for asking me to do this,” Reeder said. “Maybe there was nobody else, I don’t know. When I look at how young coaches get in the business now, I would have never made it. It would have never happened, so for that, I’m very grateful because I wouldn’t have missed these experiences for anything.”

During his time with the Aggies, Reeder coached both the indoor and outdoor runners in the 800 meters and longer distances, as well as working with the cross country teams. He coached three All-American athletes, including Trever Ball, Shane Bingham and Jennifer Twitchell.

“He knew how to help people individually and he just has a way of coaching that made people want to do better,” Bingham said. “He’s a good man and he helped that program come a long ways. My first year at Utah State was back in 1992 and we won the first-ever cross country championship in school history.”

Ball earned All-America honors in 2005 for cross country, while Bingham was tabbed an All-American in 1997 for the 1,500m and again in 1998 for the indoor mile race. Twitchell earned her lone All-America honors in 2007 for the indoor mile.

“Coach Reeder was just a phenomenal coach and an even more phenomenal person,” said Tiffany (Strickland) Foulger, who participated in cross country and the steeplechase. “He was wonderful to be around and wonderful to be coached by. He was fun and I appreciated that. He had high expectations and developed a lot of runners. I know I developed under him very well and ran really well. Coach Reeder’s training worked and he got me running faster than I ever thought I could.”

Both Bingham and Foulger appreciated the way Reeder varied his practices.

“The workouts weren’t the same boring things all the time,” Bingham said. “He’d shake it up a little bit, just do things different and come up with new stuff. He’d find what worked and what didn’t. The biggest thing is he just had a way of making people want to do better and improve.”

Foulger agreed.

“He always pushed us hard and he made us do a lot of hard things,” she said. “He never let us off the hook and he’d never let up, because he knew what was best for us. Another thing he did was making practice fun. He did a lot of changing up locations as far as where we practiced, so that was nice. He gave us a lot of change of scenery for our training, which was really helpful because you can get repetitive and mundane, but he mixed it up really well.”

Foulger also appreciated Reeder’s demeanor at practice.

“One of the main things I loved about coach Reeder is that he always came to practice with a big smile on his face,” Foulger said. “That’s one thing that really stood out that I loved and I think you kind of fed off that energy, of him being there and being excited about running, and just being happy overall.”

Reeder was instrumental in helping the Aggies capture 38 combined conference titles for cross country, as well as indoor and outdoor track & field.

“It’s been way more than I could have ever imagined,” Reeder said of his time coaching the Aggies. “When I first got started, Ralph Maughan invited me to their team banquet. He had already hired me for the upcoming year in the fall and I went and met some of the guys that were going to be on the team. Up until then, I was just like, ‘Oh, I’m going to be a college coach.’

“Then I met the athletes and realized I needed to direct them and make decisions that would help them be better and it was a little sobering. I spent the whole summer preparing as much as I could.”

Added Gensel: “When I took over as the head coach, there were 18 people on the men’s team. With Steve and myself and other coaches, we built the program into what it is today and the distance side of it has always been the stalwart. We’ve always had really good distance runners and you’ve got to attribute that to coach Reeder.”

Reeder was a long jumper at Box Elder High School (Brigham City, Utah) before earning his bachelor’s degree in physical education from BYU. He later earned his master’s degree in exercise science from Utah State.

While teaching English at Duchesne (Utah) High School for one year, Reeder also coached basketball, football and track. He then came to Logan and taught at the junior high level, coaching football, wrestling and track for two years prior to becoming an assistant with the Aggies.

Reeder, who carried the Olympic Torch as it passed through Logan on its way to the Opening Ceremonies in Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, retired from Mount Logan Middle School, where he taught physical education, in 2009.

Reeder and his wife, who have five children together, are planning on serving a two-year LDS Church Mission next year.

-USU-

By Staff