Kevin Hadsell is in his 13th year as the head coach for the men's and women's cross country teams at the University of Toledo. He's also been the Rockets' head women's track coach for the last seven years. A native of Burlington, Vt., Hadsell graduated with a bachelor's degree in education from Vermont in 1993 and later earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Coastal Carolina in 1997. Before coming to UT, Hadsell was an assistant at Columbia from 1997-98 and the assistant coach/assistant sports information director at Coastal Carolina from 1993-97.
How did you get first involved with track and cross country?
I started running track my freshman year in high school after I was cut from the baseball team. The track coach knew the baseball coach at my high school, and the baseball coach pretty much told him, "Hey, this kid is terrible at baseball but he's pretty fast, so you might want to give him a try."
Are you still an avid runner?
I stopped running competitively about three years after I graduated from college, but this summer I was down in Atlanta and ran in the Peachtree 10K. My time was so slow that it was comical. I joked with the girls on the team that I probably would have been better off if I ran on my hands because I'm so top-heavy since I only lift [weights] now.
You're often described as an "Energizer Bunny." Where does all your energy come from?
First of all, anybody that knows me knows that I'm a huge coffee fan, so that's probably a chunk of it. I'm up to like 80 ounces a day. But the thing is, I'm like the eternal optimist as a person. I love to make people laugh, and that's the thing that kids will tell you over the years, if you're feeling down you can't wait to get to practice because something funny is going to happen. I think a lot of energy just comes from loving what I do. I can't imagine doing anything else.
As the coach of three programs [men's cross country, women's cross country and women's track] spread over three seasons [cross country in the fall, indoor track in the winter and outdoor track in the spring], there's basically no offseason for you right?
The time just flies. And even after the outdoor [track] season is over, you still generally have some kids competing longer than that, like at the Olympic Trials and things like that, and then you're right back into cross country. It would be tough if I didn't love it. [Earlier this week] my assistant Sara Vergote and I were out lining the field for our meet on Saturday. When you're a track coach — and this is anywhere — you wind up wearing a lot of hats. You're always busy so there's nothing mundane about it.
How's the outdoor track season shaping up for you and your team?
I'm very excited for the season to get going, but it's so early right now. Obviously cross country was amazing going to the NCAAs as a team and then indoor [track] went really well scoring more points than we've ever scored in school history at the MAC championships and finishing fifth. But we're a better outdoor team because we're so good in distance [events], particularly, so we should have a good season.
What's it been like to coach All-American junior long-distance runner Ari Fisher?
She's one of our favorite athletes that we've ever had come through here. She started not even being a varsity runner and then to watch her develop athletically, it's amazing to see somebody go from just being an average runner to on the verge of being a world-class runner. She's ranked 25th in the world for the 5000 [meter] indoors. But she's so friendly, she's fun and really a genuine person, which makes her success even more enjoyable.
What's been the key to her success, in your opinion?
She's kind of like we are. She's an eternal optimist. She knows it's always going to work out. If I look back on the four other women we had ranked in the top 25 in the world since I've been here, the common denominator of all of them is they all believed in themselves. They never doubted themselves.
Is recruiting more or less difficult recruiting for three different seasons?
Recruiting is definitely unique in our sport. Recruiting in the fall is primarily for distance runners, because high school kids are competing in cross country in the fall, and distance kids typically make their college decisions a lot earlier than sprinters, jumpers, and throwers, because they don't compete their senior season until the spring. The [recruiting] year is kind of divided in two, but we're usually going crazy with recruiting all year long.
How do you unwind away from the track?
I'm an outdoors-type person. I go deer hunting in the fall, and that's kind of a little break for me during gun season. In the summer, I love to travel and I spend a lot of time in Myrtle Beach [S.C.] because I used to coach at Coastal Carolina and I have a lot of friends that still live there. We also go camping too.
What's the best part about living and working in Toledo?
Before coming here, I lived and worked in New York City and when this job opened up, I had never been to Toledo in my life. I was kind of expecting the worst, to be honest with you, because I had never been here before. When I got here, I couldn't believe how beautiful the campus was. I literally fell in love with the place. I love the University of Toledo as if I went here, even though I have no ties to it except for my job. I was offered the Vanderbilt job six years ago, and I turned it down without even asking for a raise. I tell people all the time, you can't put a price tag on being happy. I wouldn't trade this place for anything.
— Zach Silka