Cross-country coach had to learn quicklyJerrod Belzer is now comfortable coaching an unknown sport
The runners were tired after practice Wednesday.
Many handled the shortened workload of running around town with ease while others approached Fairfield High School gasping for air. Many sought the refuge of a shade tree to avoid the beating sun. The runners talked as each of them regained their breath.
Under that shade tree stood cross-country coach Jerrod Belzer. One by one, Belzer greeted the tired faces looking up at him from the grass with a high five or a word of encouragement.
Those who knew Jerrod Belzer six years ago would not have been surprised when he became a coach, they however would have been shocked to learn that the sport was cross-country.
At that time Belzer did not have a single day of cross-country experience. He had never even attended a race.
Belzer grew up in the small town of Agency. Once he was in high school he played football. He worked at Subway in Fairfield, where he met Courtney, the woman he eventually married. After attending Northern Iowa University he moved with Courtney to Fairfield. He began to student teach at the high school and elementary school level.
While student teaching Belzer caught a break. Ron Hunerdosse, the high school girl’s cross-country coach, was resigning his position. All Belzer wanted to do was coach so he decided to apply for the job.
“He had always planned on coaching football,” Courtney said. “But he took a shot at cross-country and has really come to love it.”
Hunerdosse, who is now the high school girl’s track coach and the middle school cross-country coach, had coached for more than thirty years before resigning his post. He remembers the day he first spoke to Belzer about what the cross-country team was all about.
“I told him you’re going to love the kids that run cross-country,” Hunderdosse said. “It’s a different type of kid. It’s a family situation in cross-country. That’s just the way it is.”
Belzer was soon learning on the fly. With each season he grew into the job more. The workouts he presented to his athletes were a sign he had grown more comfortable with his job.
“He took to it like a duck to water,” Hunerdosse said.
Belzer was understandably apprehensive when he first took the job, but he knew it was something he could do.
“I didn’t know anything when I took over,” Belzer said. “There was a lot to learn.”
Now there is only one head cross-country coach, meaning that Belzer now coaches both the boys and the girls. This season the Trojans look to stay competitive in conference and to capture a conference title. Belzer says it is a challenge they are ready to take on.
While at practice many of the runners simply call him Belzer. Both student and coach are extremely comfortable in their surroundings.
“I’m easy going, but I’m a competitor as well,” Belzer said. “I like to win just as much as anyone else.”