While many athletes consider USD home for four years, four track and field coaches have decided to help make it a home for others.
Lucky Huber, Derek Miles, Dan Fitzsimmons and Teivaskie Lewin were all track athletes at USD and now remain on the coaching staff.
Representing South Dakota
Lucky Huber, the director of track and field & cross county, grew up in Elk Point and graduated from USD in 1989. He said he decided to attend USD because he wanted to represent the state.
“I came to USD because I grew up in South Dakota and always wanted to represent the state of South Dakota,” Huber said. “So I feel like when it says South Dakota on your jersey and you’re from South Dakota, it’s kinda a really neat thing so to be able to do that as a coach it is a huge honor for me.”
Huber worked for the Academic Advising Center for 17 years until he was named the director of the program in 2008. He said the family aspect of the team is always on the coaching staff’s mind.
“When there is so many of us that went here, it really is a family because we have the people that are graduates, and now we’re coaching their kids,” he said. “So it really does help build that family atmosphere.”
While the program has kept its family values, Huber said some things have changed since he was a student athlete at USD.
“At the time I came here, we couldn’t wear spikes in the Dome and we didn’t have an outdoor track to now (having) these amazing facilities,” Huber said.
A ‘close-knit family’
Teivaskie Lewin, assistant coach for sprints and hurdles, graduated from USD in 2016. Coming from his hometown, Montego Bay, Jamaica, Lewin said Huber’s personality drew him to USD.
“When I was being recruited as an athlete coach Huber was very genuine. That’s where I got really sold on USD,” he said. “I was sold on it you know, being a close knit family and you know that was part of why I came here. To have people that had the same goals as I did and…finding a coaching staff and people who were gonna take care of me you feel like home basically.”
Lewin said he was drawn to be a coach because he wanted to share his knowledge.
“I like helping people and when I was an athlete I saw there was a way I could help others by the knowledge that I gained over the years competing,” he said. That’s really why I became a coach, I love track and field and doing it for so long it’s hard to just stop doing it. So its my way to say I’m still in track, I’m still helping and doing my part.”
Changes that Lewin said he has seen were the improvements in facilities.
“We’re getting a little bit more diverse,” he said. “I can see that too.”
‘A name, not a number’
Dan Fitzsimmons, head cross country coach, graduated from USD in 1986. Originally from New York, Fitzsimmons said coming to USD as a first generation college student had its challenges, which he said helps him relate to other out-of-state athletes.
“I came from a largely populated area, so I can relate a little to some of the kids that come from the cities with Vermillion being a little smaller,” he said.
Fitzsimmons said his favorite thing about Vermillion is the community values.
“What I liked about here is I was a name, not a number, and in some ways it felt like my high school was bigger than here and everyone got to know my name,” he said.
Before he was a full time coach at USD, Fitzsimmons coached in Yankton for 22 years. He said that when he came back from teaching, everyone was calling him Danny.
“I hadn’t heard (that) since my college days and only my mom and my mother-in-law call me Danny,” he said. “But everyone here was calling me Danny and my kids said ‘well dad you gotta go back there. The only people that call you Danny are family, so it must be everyone in Vermillion is family.'”
While Fitzsimmons said some things have changed, like facilities and the development of Vermillion, he said USD remains a very sentimental place, as he met his wife in biology class in the Churchill-Hanes Laboratories and all four of his children have attended USD.
“Yesterday my wife and I went to the Newman Center for Mass after I had practice… I remember going to my first Newman Center with her and for us to be able to live that experience over and over again 35 years later, not everyone has that opportunity,” he said. “When I walk across campus, there is a lot of sentimental things that I get to live every day.”
Derek Miles, associate director of track and field, graduated from USD in 1998 and later went on to be a three time Olympian and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist. He said he chose USD because it was one of the only schools that called him.
Miles said the investment coaches make into athletes prepared him to later compete in the olympics and now coach.
“I think you kind of need to have someone that is invested in what you are trying to do and what your goals are and have someone that spends a lot of time with you and helps you not just through the athletic stuff, but the life stuff so you can focus on those other things,” he said.
That investment helped Miles develop his skills, he said.
“I wasn’t very talented in college,” he said. “It took me a little while to develop and I think it was just the time the coaching staff put into me was the significant thing that I learned about how you get kids to be successful and maybe what pays off in the end.”
As far as changes go, Miles said the facilities and gear available to students are very different.
“When I came here, we were lucky to get a jacket to compete in and a pair of shoes,” he said. “And now we get an entire gear package that each kid gets. It’s considerably different since I’ve been here but I think that’s kind of what you want.”