Augustana Observer

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Augustana Observer

A good run: Whiteside retires after 40 years

Fred Whiteside prepares practice plans for women’s track and field on March 17, in prepartion for the Rhodes Invitational. Photo by Katie Canning.
Fred Whiteside prepares practice plans for women’s track and field on March 17, in prepartion for the Rhodes Invitational.  Photo by Katie Canning.
Fred Whiteside prepares practice plans for women’s track and field on March 17, in prepartion for the Rhodes Invitational.
Photo by Katie Canning.

After 40 years of unparalleled success as head coach for the Augustana women’s track and cross country teams, Coach Fred Whiteside announced his retirement, effective at the end of the 2015 track and field season.

Whiteside graduated from Augustana in 1974 and has been coaching since Augustana women’s athletics first began in 1975, initially as an assistant to men’s track and field head coach Paul Olsen.

However, Whiteside hadn’t planned to ever pursue coaching. Though he was an accomplished athlete in high school, Whiteside went to college for a business degree in the hopes of eventually running his family’s farm equipment dealership. After his father passed away in his sophomore year, the dealership closed. Whiteside then pursued his interest in track and field and tried out for the team that fall, having been ineligible to compete during his first year because he was a transfer student from Eureka College.

The next few years were successful ones: Whiteside received All-American Honors at the first NCAA Cross Country Championship in 1973 and attained a school record as a member of the indoor 3200 relay team. These successes eventually brought about his first coaching opportunity: filling in for Coach Olsen when he left Augustana to complete a doctorate degree.

“Coach Olsen was completing his Ph.D. and asked if I could help while he was away for the rest of that year,” said Whiteside. “I didn’t know how to coach anything; I just loved to run.”

In his initial years, Whiteside said he learned by imitating Olsen’s coaching style and duplicating his workouts.

By 1982, Whiteside was appointed as head coach of the women’s cross country team and enjoyed a state championship title in his first season. Five years later, he found himself coaching the women’s track and field team and enjoyed another first place inaugural season, as that team went on to win both the CCIW and state titles. In his tenure as head coach, Whiteside led teams to a combined 19 CCIW Championships and two qualifications in the NCAA Division III national cross country championship, the first and only in Augustana history.

Whiteside credited his early successes to a talented pool of athletes he had been fortunate enough to coach. “The very first team I had was an exceptional, talented team,” said Whiteside. “We had great kids that could run forever and were fast…when you start off like that, it gives you a boost in your confidence.”

While there were many high points in his extensive career, Whiteside was successful because he also used the few low points as a means of improving team composition and morale. Whenever the team had “deficiencies” in certain areas, Whiteside would make a point of recruiting in those areas for the next season. Especially when practices were taking their toll on his teams, Whiteside would stress the importance of hard work in yielding good results.

“I would [always] stress, ‘work hard in practice, so you’ll have the chance to run happy.’ Unless you achieve your potential, you’re not happy,” said Whiteside.

In addition, Whiteside believed in setting an example for the team by running as much as he prescribed them to, “even in the summer.”

Whiteside has influenced many Augustana students, staff, faculty and atheletes over the years. Senior track and cross country runner Rebecca Sund has been coached by Whiteside since her freshman year and said he inspired passion for her running career.

“I didn’t have the same passion for the sport I used to, until I met Fred,” said Sund. “He taught me to relax, laugh, made running fun again.”

Looking back on his women’s programs that have grown from 29 to nearly 140 student athletes, Whiteside said he never felt that his coaching career was a job and instead felt “lucky enough” to pursue what he wanted to do.

“I really feel Augie has been a tremendous college to work for…my bosses always made me feel like I belonged here,” said Whiteside.

Following retirement, Whiteside plans to spend more time with family and even plant an apple orchard with his wife, Cathie.

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A good run: Whiteside retires after 40 years