Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Jake Shaver begins first season at Augustana

Head coach Jake Shaver talks to his team.

Throughout his 52-year career as men’s cross country and track head coach, there was always the thought “What if Paul Olsen retires?”
When Olsen announced his retirement in 2017, the questioned shifted to “Who will be next?”
The search for a new coach began immediately. The athletic department, however, didn’t want to completely replace what Olsen created in his half of a century career.
But who could continue those long-established traditions?
The answer: Jake Shaver.
Shaver is no stranger to Augustana’s well-known program. Shaver, a 2006 graduate of Augustana, ran under Olsen’s coaching for four years.
Since graduating from Augustana, Shaver has served as the head coach at two Division III colleges in the midwest. He also served as an assistant coach at the University of Chicago and, most recently, Illinois State University.
When the opportunity came up for the coaching position at Augustana, “Mr. Enthusiastic,” as Olsen calls him, jumped all over the job.
“Just having the opportunity to come in and be in the house that Olsen built and be in his chair, and having the reigns of a program that was so important to me and many of my friends is a huge opportunity,” Shaver said.
Shaver went through an extensive interview process. Olsen was there for him every step of the way.
Mike Zapolski, director of Augustana athletics, said that one of the benefits of hiring Shaver is that he is an alum of the cross country and track programs. Shaver recognizes how the program was shaped before.
“Many of those traditions that are well-recognized for what Augustana cross country and track are all about are not going to go by the wayside, which I think is a positive,” Zapolski said.
The traditions that Olsen passed down to Shaver hold significance not only to the current team, but with past members, like Shaver himself.
When Shaver arrived to Augustana in 2002, he wasn’t yet a “track and cross country junkie,” as Zapolski described him. He was never the top performer, but he was able to improve and thrive as a leader based on the environment that Olsen created.
“I was really inspired by the program [Olsen] built here,” Shaver said. “When I decided to go into coaching, Olsen was a huge influence on that and a mentor for me in my early years and beyond, still to this day. He’s someone who helped me out personally and professionally. ”
Olsen is known for spreading positivity and support. Throughout the interview process, Olsen gave Shaver handfuls of advice. The best piece?
“Be you,” Shaver said.
Shaver said he realizes he can’t be an “Olsen impersonator” and he doesn’t want to be. Olsen helped Shaver recognize the confidence he needed to be his own person.
Shaver and the athletic department acknowledge that there will be slight changes, even though many of the past program details will stay true to tradition.
“[The program] is something that’s going to evolve over time. It’s not something that needed to be fixed-it wasn’t broken,” Zapolski said. “But at the same time, it will have a different vibe because it’s a different person that’s in charge.”
The team members, with the exception of the freshmen, were coached under Olsen for up to three years. Senior captain of the cross country team Brandon Wilkerson said that change is normally difficult, but this transition has been smooth.
“You can tell he’s been through the program,” Wilkerson said. “You could see some mannerisms or some enthusiasm that has been passed down [from Olsen].”
This season will be full of changes, but nothing that the teams aren’t ready for. Even as a senior, Wilkerson expressed his excitement for experiencing this transition year.
“I’m excited to be here at the start of it,” Wilkerson said. “I hope that even past this year and the transition period that [Shaver] finds his niche.”
The cross country team opened their season with a 2nd place finish on August 31 at the Western Illinois Invitational. Since then, the team continues placing as top finishers.
As Shaver finishes completes his first official cross country coaching season at Augustana through November 10, there will hardly be a break since track starts up soon after. Recruiting is constantly occurring, and Shaver plans to play a major role in it as well.
Shaver never felt the pressure of starting a new job. People almost expect him to be nervous to change anything Olsen created, but that’s not the case. Shaver wants to continue some traditions that encouraged him to continue in his running career, while also adding his own touch.
One of Olsen’s trademarks was the tee shirts he made for his teams every year. Written on them are inspirational quotes that make their go-arounds over the years. Shaver wanted to continue this tradition, but by adding something meaningful to him and his journey.
“New year, same goal” reads the back of the 2018 cross country shirts.
Change can be difficult, but with Shaver’s enthusiasm and passion for the sport, he’s making the change easier for his team, and that’s what coaching is all about.
“I just love coaching,” Shaver said with a smile on his face.
Photo Above: Head coach Jake Shaver talks to his team. Photo by Ian Murrin.

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Jake Shaver begins first season at Augustana