After months of flux and confusion among the Florida Tech track and field teams, things are finally starting to take shape for the young team.
Early last week, Bill Jurgens, Florida Tech athletic director, officially announced big chances coming to the team starting with the hiring of Jason Munsch as the new head coach of the team.
“We’re excited about having Jason as a member of the Florida Tech Athletics program,” Jurgens said in a press release. “When I interviewed him, I could tell he was going to be a great fit for the university and he would work very well with the track and field coaches. I’m confident that Jason will be an asset to the continued growth of this five-year-old program and develop a broad based program that is highly competitive at the national level.”
Munsch will not only be taking the vacancy left open after the resignation of former assistant Nick Dodson in late summer, but will also take over for Pete Mazzone.
Mazzone is stepping down as the track and field head coach, but will still be very active with coaching the distance runs and will remain cross-country head coach.
Munsch, who has experience working with student-athletes at both DI and DII programs, said he has always aspired to return to college coaching.
Munsch said he had a relationship with Dodson for a few years previously.
“When I saw there was an opening, it sparked my interest — in-state, Division II level,” Munsch said. “When I coached at Central Missouri at the DII level, it was my favorite level of coaching. I enjoyed it more because I felt there was more opportunity to be successful in the DII level compared to DI level.”
Mazzone said he thinks Munsch’s hiring is the next step in the growth of the track and field program, bringing with him experience at both the high school and collegiate levels. “Having him assume the full-time role as head coach is going to be huge,” Mazzone said.
Mazzone said Munsch’s energy and passion for the sport will help develop the school’s talent to new levels and bring in new recruits and funds.
Munsch comes to Florida Tech with three years of coaching experience at the Division I level as well as spending the last five years as head coach at Riverview High School. While at Riverview, the Sharks broke 21 school records and his athletes earned 13 medals at the state championships.
“The biggest thing is at the college level you have a lot more depth of quality,” Munsch said. “You have a lot of athletes who were good high school athletes; they went to the state championship, for their high school they did really well. So once you get to the college level, those athletes become a dime a dozen. The big difference there is in the high school level you only have a few really good athletes that you may focus on.”
He said being a high school coach for five years helped him to be a more well-rounded coach, and to break things down with athletes more.
Also while at Riverview, Munsch coached current Florida Tech hurdler, Maia Carter.
“It’s exciting to see a familiar face,” Munsch said. “It’s a testament of me as to what I can do as a coach. I developed her for four years as a high school athlete. I think it’s going to help other athletes get a little more comfortable with me as a coach, helping them trust in me and have confidence in me. Obviously being the new coach coming in you have to earn the trust of your athletes. They have to know you’re the right guy to get them where they want to be.”
With the Panthers being in so much flux over the last few months, Munsch stressed that getting the team to buy into him as well as getting some structure back to practice will get the team back on track.
“I think something that the athletes are going to want is some structure and some consistency,” Munsch said. “For me it’s coming in and establishing a constant routine as far as practice and the training we are doing things on a weekly basis. For almost two months they have been on their own. It’s important to them on the same page expeditions and making them understand that we have goals to accomplish.”
When meeting with the team for the first time, Munsch stressed his goals for the team. He said he also understands this a process and National Championships aren’t born overnight.
“Short-term goals is really individual improvement,” Munsch said. “Picking up where we left off last year with our individual performances and continuing to show improvement. That’s going to us help us get more national qualifies and place better in the conference. Long term — once we have success, use it to market to high school athletes and recruits to improve our numbers.”
The Panthers will compete in their second season this spring in the competitive Peach Belt Conference.