Hasenbank elevates Iowa cross country

Iowa cross country head coach Randy Hasenbank didn’t always have his sights on coaching. Now he leads an Iowa cross country program that is on the rise.


Jenna Galligan

Iowa distance runner Nathan Mylenek leads the pack of the 1500m run at the Musco Twilight Invitational at the Cretzmeyer Track on Saturday, April 13, 2019. Mylenek won the race with a time 3:52:06. The Hawkeyes won 10 events during the meet. The Iowa women ranked first with 183 points, and the men ranked fifth 76 points.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

For Iowa cross country head coach Randy Hasenbank, the plan was never to be a cross country coach. In fact, coaching of any kind was never in the cards. 

“I was only interested in being a physical education teacher,” Hasenbank said. “And I wasn’t crazy about coaching in high school. I thought I would just work in my dad’s shop.”

Hasenbank started to take his running seriously and ended up being an athlete at Cloud County Junior College before finishing his studies at Wichita State University.

In addition to being a cross country athlete in college, Hasenbank was also a multi-sport athlete in high school, competing in football, basketball, and track and field. 

“We’d play football Friday night, and run cross country Saturday morning,” Hasenbank said. “It was probably good to flush out because we were always sore after the football games.”

After his stint in college, Hasenbank became an assistant at his alma mater for four years before taking over a high school program for eight years. It was the high school level that really helped him grow the most as a coach. 

Hasenbank received his first head coaching position at the college level at Loyola University, where many difficulties presented themselves in his first head coaching job.

A lack of availability to facilities and administrative turnover was prevalent during Hasenbank’s time at Loyola. 

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“It became a lot of work from day to day,” Hasenbank said. “The physical labor the staff went through to get the track set up and facility set up daily and running all over the city to find places and permission to train — there were a lot of challenges.”

However, Hasenbank described it as a gratifying experience where the program was still able to see some wide success, including having a sub-four miler. When Iowa came calling, however, it was too sweet of a deal to turn down.

“You’ve got a lot more resources,” Hasenbank said. “Better budgets, a cross country course, an outdoor and indoor track. Just a lot more things to offer the athletes when they walk in the door, so that is a big advantage.”

Since he arrived at Iowa, Hasenback has changed the mindset of the program to focus on finishing strong in big meets. 

“They’ve always had pockets of success,” Hasenbank said. “But the goal is to create success on a comprehensive level. [I’ve stressed] Elevating the mentality, the culture, the environment, the expectations and the goal setting, getting out there and performing.”

To do that, Iowa will need to see contributions out of athletes that may not be expected to be key contributors.

That’s fine by Hasenbank.

“I have always enjoyed the athletes that have come the furthest to achieve the most,” he said. “[Whether it’s] not being recruited or being near capable doing what they needed to do to survive when they arrive.”

Star runners are also necessary for a program to be successful, and Iowa has one in Nate Mylenek.

Mylenek is an example of an athlete who has been under the guidance of Hasenbank, and the senior gives his coach credit for where the program has gone in recent years.

“The first two years were a struggle because I wanted to be at the top immediately,” Mylenek said. “But, I saw steady improvement. [Hasenbank] would probably say that all the success I had was from myself, that he just facilitated it. However, he deserves more credit than that. All I had to do was trust him and everything I wanted would come.”