July 30, 2012
Recruited in 1997 to join Missoula's Mountain West Track Club, Vicky Pounds expected to live and train in western Montana for a couple of years, then move back to Atlanta. Fifteen years later she's still around.
When Montana track and field program director Brian Schweyen sought to fill the gap in his coaching staff this summer with someone who could be a dynamic recruiter for his program, who better for the position?
Pounds, who stopped competing professionally in 2008 and has since been directing the Mountain West Youth Track Club, has been hired as the Grizzlies' new assistant track and field coach, Schweyen announced recently.
Pounds will coach Montana's middle distance runners, from the 400 and 400-meter hurdles up to the 800 meters. She replaces Harry Clark on Schweyen's staff. Clark resigned effective July 1 after 11 years at Montana to take a similar job at Carroll.
"I think Vicky fits in really well with our program and the direction we want to go," Schweyen said. "I think she has the type of personality that fits with our current staff.
"I know she is excited to get started recruiting. She has some really good connections, and that's the No. 1 part of this job: recruiting."
Pounds, who spent a year as a restricted earnings coach at Alabama and a year as a volunteer assistant coach at Georgia Tech, both in the mid-90s, begins her job light on collegiate coaching experience but heavy on collegiate running success.
A native of Leduc, Alberta, Pounds, then Lynch, was recruited to Alabama and became a 14-time All-American for the Crimson Tide and six-time Southeastern Conference champion in the middle distances and relays.
She swept the 800 and 1,500 meters at the 1993 SEC outdoor championships and weeks later earned All-America honors in the 800 and 1,500 meters and 4x400-meter relay at the NCAA championships.
Pounds twice finished third at the NCAA indoor championships in the 800 meters and concluded her career with collegiate bests of 2:03.40 in the 800 meters and 4:17.19 in the 1,500. Her time of 2:04.68 is still Alabama's indoor record in the 800.
"Athletes want to see something (when you're recruiting them), whether it's that you've coached a bunch of all-Americans or conference champions or had a really good career yourself," Schweyen said.
"The reality is that there are a lot of people out there who had fantastic careers who aren't great coaches, and there are others who didn't have much of a career but are fantastic coaches.
"I think with Vicky we're going to get the best of both sides. She had a phenomenal career, and I think she is going to be a fantastic coach for us."
Pounds, who graduated from Alabama in 1994 with a degree in communications, was living in Atlanta and racing for Nike in 1997 when future Mountain West Track Club teammate Andrea Grove-McDonough told her about the rising track power in Missoula.
"The club flew me and my husband out on a recruiting trip (in the fall of 1997)," Pounds recalled last week. "I thought I might come out for a couple of years, compete, then move back to Georgia.
"Now it's been 15 years, and there is no way I'm getting my husband to leave, even if I wanted to."
Montana cross country and distance coach Courtney Babcock, a 2004 Olympian for Canada in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters, also joined the Mountain West Track Club the same year.
Pounds would race for MWTC for 11 years. She lowered her PR in the 800 meters to 2:02.00 at the 1998 Prefontaine Classic and ran a 4:11.78 in the 1,500 meters at the 2003 Burnaby Harry Jerome Track Classic in Vancouver, B.C.
She repeated her 1992 Canadian national championship in the 800 meters in 1999 and was on Canada's team that competed at the 1999 World Championships at Seville, Spain.
Pounds, who along with husband Jason has three children under the age of 10, retired from competitive running in 2008. Shortly thereafter she approached the MWTC board of directors about starting a youth track program in Missoula.
"Coaching the youth track club really filled a void in my life after I stopped competing," Pounds says. "I'd been competing in the sport since the age of 10, so when I gave that up it felt like a part of me died."
The program began with a modest enrollment of 10 young athletes in the summer of 2008. This year more than 40 competed. Pounds will continue to oversee the program, but she was ready to move to a more competitive and year-round coaching environment.
"Youth coaching is so seasonal," she added. "I didn't feel like I could really develop an athlete the way I wanted to, year after year."
Pounds has also worked with the latest generation of MWTC runners since 2008 as an assistant coach. She'll take the philosophies she's come to believe after three decades in the sport to her new position.
"I view myself as a very positive and supportive person, but I will also have high expectations for my athletes," she says. "I'll expect commitment and dedication in how the athletes approach their training and in everything else they need to be doing to be the best athletes they can be."
The rest of Schweyen's staff returns in 2012-13. The upcoming season will be Courtney Babcock's fifth year as Montana's cross country and distance coach, and Adam Bork will be starting his sixth year as the Grizzlies' multi-events and jumps coach. James Stanton will work with Montana's throwers for the second consecutive year.
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