Lane Community College announced April 26 that track and field coach Grady O’Connor will be stepping down at the end of the season on June 24. O’Connor has led Titan track and field and cross country teams for 19 years.
When asked how many students O’Connor felt he had coached throughout the 19 years he approximated 600-800.
“I came here because he is a really good events coach in hurdles. The news was a really big blow and I guess I am going to have to transfer now to somewhere that has a better program,” Lane athlete Seth Andres said.
Many students have been successful in athletics and other aspects of their future due to O’Connor’s method of coaching.
“My philosophy has changed since I have gotten older,” O’Connor said. “Now I look toward more student contact, not only the flash. My sport psychology is to strive for one-on-one time with students, student connection is more important than improving performance.”
O’Connor was hired as an assistant coach at Lane in 1998 and named interim head coach in 1999, taking over the program in 2000. He is trying to look forward, trying to move from the initial shock of shifting to full-time teaching from coaching.
Coach O’Connor has helped several students move onto bigger things past Lane. Former Lane students Dakarai Hightower, Cyrus Hostetler and Jordan McNamara, joined the many track and field athletes to compete in the Olympic Trials. Hostetler went on to compete in Rio. O’Connor mentored the athletes along the way to the trials.
“It’s pretty rare that you have an athlete in the Olympic trials competing for any college, let alone a community college,” O’Connor told The Torch in 2016.
“He is an excellent coach and he really responds to me, and I to him. I think by far he is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,”
Seth Andre, Lane athlete
There is uncertainty about who will take over the coaching position for track and field and cross country.
“There is always an unknown with someone new coming in that we don’t know. We don’t know who that’s going to be and with the budgetary cuts; the college is in a very difficult spot,” Lane baseball coach Josh Blunt said.
Lane Track and field is competing in the NWAC Multi Event Championships hosted by Lane May 1 and 2. “I want the current team to stay on goal, win the championship and develop character in the process,” O’Connor said.
The end of the season is June 24 and O’Connor will then transition to teaching full-time.
“I am looking towards the future,” O’Connor said. “I am trying to look forward, trying to move from the initial shock of the oncoming shift from full-time coaching to full-time teaching.”