One foot in front of the other

PNW names new cross-country coach


Hailey Bengston

Austin Warner, head cross-country coach for PNW.

Austin Warner, new head cross-country coach for PNW, has a passion for running that began when he encountered an unexpected race.

“When I was in elementary school, there was a local 5k road race going on right past my house. I was watching the runners go by with some of my friends and I decided I wanted to be a part of the race,” Warner said.

He said he ran the last two miles of the race barefoot and enjoyed it.

“Little did I know that this barefoot trek would be the beginning of something special,” Warner said.

Warner decided to join his high school’s cross-country team when he got cut from the basketball team. He said it did not take long for him to get hooked on the sport.

During college, Warner decided he wanted to become a cross-country coach.

“A piece of advice that I took close to heart was to do what you love, so becoming a coach in a sport I enjoyed was a no-brainer,” Warner said.

Before PNW, Warner was an assistant coach for Nova Southeastern University in Florida, an NCAA Division II school. He helped take the men’s and women’s cross-country teams to the NCAA National Championships and coached two qualifiers.

Originally from Dyer, Warner said he wanted to come back to Indiana. He saw an online job opening for a PNW cross-country position and immediately applied.

“The Region has always been home to me, and it is where this whole running thing started. I missed the people who make this area so special,” Warner said. “I heard from some people that things were happening at PNW, more specifically in the athletic department with their transition to NCAA Division II. After meeting some of the staff and student athletes who interviewed me, I knew I wanted to be a part of the PNW family.”

Rick Costello, PNW athletic director, said that Warner was hired because of his energy and enthusiasm.

“Warner has an excellent and warm personality. With his coaching experience, we know he will be a great recruiter and expect him to grow and develop the cross-country program,” Costello said.

Warner said he has simple plans for the men’s and women’s cross-country teams: focus on themselves and not the competing teams.

“The main focus for us is to improve on a daily basis, whether that is on the cross-country course, in the classroom or in our everyday lives,” Warner said. “If we take care of ourselves, buy into a training plan and focus on how we can improve as a team, I am confident that we will reach both our individual and team goals.”

Warner plans to stress the teams’ collaboration in workouts and recruitment. He wants to build up the roster sizes on both teams.

“I plan to build up relationships with local high schools and running organizations in the area by having recruit days on campus and attending high school meets and camps to look at potential student athletes,” Warner said. “The team will be looking to add individuals who are passionate about running and are willing to put in the effort to be a successful collegiate student athlete.”

Warner wants to coach and build winners in the cross-country course, classroom and the community. He said that just being successful in athletics does not make an exceptional student athlete.