BY BRANDON ZIMMERMAN
The Northwestern track and field team welcomed a new coach to their squad this season. Tim Vander Ploeg, a 2003 graduate of NW, will replace Kyle Blankers as the new full-time assistant coach.
While attending NW, Vander Ploeg ran in the 110-meter high hurdles, the 400-meter hurdles, the four-by-400-meter relay and also competed in the long jump. He qualified and participated in the national meet three out of his four years of his track and field career.
Upon graduation, Vander Ploeg and his wife, Kelli, decided to pack up their belongings and move southward to Omaha, Neb., where they started a family together. Vander Ploeg began making his living working in sales for ten years and was also a counselor at the Teen Reach Adventure Camp (T.R.A.C.). In addition, he led a high school church youth group and coached a group of local high school track and field athletes before deciding to coach at NW.
“It was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” Vander Ploeg said.
The Vander Ploeg’s said they felt that God was calling them back to NW.
“If this is where God is leading us, and it’s a door that He’s opened up quite big right now, you can’t not listen to Him, but rather you’ve got to go forward with it.”
Moving back to a smaller community was also ideal for Vander Ploeg and his wife, as they are in the process of raising three children.
“The smaller community was definitely appealing for us in raising kids,” Vander Ploeg said.
Talking about the goals that he has for the track and field team this year, Vander Ploeg said that he first wanted to assess all of the athletes and find out where they are at with their skills. The next step is to make minor adjustments to help individual team members improve on their events.
“Ultimately, my goal is to get them to their top performance that they want to be at,” he said.
During Vander Ploeg’s time as a student at NW, the track squad consisted of between 50 and 60 athletes depending on the semester.
Since then, the program has expanded to more than 110 athletes. This provides the team with the opportunity to compete with larger schools.
“It’s awesome to see the growth in the program,” Vander Ploeg said. “The more athletes running, the more athletes to score points.”
For Vander Ploeg, coaching track and field full-time has always been a dream job.
“It’s something I can hopefully do for quite a while,” he said.