The Rebirth: 1988 – 2007

Weber provided stability as a new period of Baker University Track and Field began when he was hired in 1988. Success quickly followed Weber, as the men’s program won 1989 indoor conference title. During Weber’s tenure from 1988 to 1996, he coached nine All-Americans and oversaw the resurrection of the Baker Relays. Weber’s team perennially placed in the top three of the conference standings for both indoor and outdoor competition. Additionally, the track was upgraded from cinder to an all-weather polyurethane surface in 1993 with a generous gift from Bill Hey. The modernization of the track was long overdue. The University of Kansas replaced its cinder track in 1969 with a similar polyurethane surface. This donation led to the rededication of the track with the name being changed to the Hey-Metzger track, in honor of both Bill Hey and Warren Metzger. Following the 1996 season Weber left for a similar position at Fort Hayes State, and Matthew Candrl, an assistant coach at Ashland University and former high school coach, took the reigns.

Candrl continued where Weber left off coaching an All-American of his own in 1999. The HAAC coaches rewarded Candrl’s hard work with a Coach of the Year Award for 1999 indoor season. But perhaps the clearest evidence of Candrl’s impact is the record book. At present, six of the twenty-eight Baker University Outdoor Track and Field records were captured during his five years as head Coach. The Baldwin City Signal lauded Candrl for his tireless effort following a strong showing at the 2000 NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Meet, “in his fourth year as cross country and track and field coach at Baker University, coach Matt Candrl is starting to make a name for himself and his team.” Athletes coached by Candrl, set another eight of the twenty-eight outdoor indoor track and field records. Candrl moved on to the University of Missouri after four years. Taking over after Candrl was his assistant coach and former college teammate Rob Mallinder.

Mallinder appeared to be up for the challenge as he has overseen similar success, doubling the program’s number of All-Americans. Academic All-Americans were a new feature to the program that emerged during Mallinder’s tenure, as he worked to develop more than just athletic talents. Although his teams have not earned the same kind of conference honors as Bretnall’s, they have undoubtedly been just as successful. Like Candrl, Mallinder has won Coach of the Year awards from his fellow HAAC coaches.

Brett Weir and Brent Randle are two athletes that highlight the Mallinder Era. Randle placed third in 2005 and 2006 at NAIA Outdoor Nationals in the Triple Jump and in route to owning the school record. Weir came closer yet to an elusive national title, placing second in 2005 and 2006 in the 60-meter hurdles at the NAIA Indoor National Meet. He placed sixth in the 110-meter hurdles in the 2006 NAIA Outdoor National Championships, and was named 2006 HAAC Indoor Track and Field MVP. Of the twenty-eight Baker University records for outdoor track and field, ten of them have been set under Mallinder’s watch. Likewise, athletes that Mallinder has coached have set nine of the twenty-eight Baker University Indoor Track and Field records. These impressive national finishes and record holders are a testament to Mallinder’s incredible coaching ability.

2007 Baker University Track and Field team

2007 Baker University Track and Field team

After a stellar track and field career of his own, in his native New Zealand and at Truman State University, Mallinder has gone to work refining his technical coaching knowledge. He has earned USA Track and Field Level I and II certification, and attended four Level III summits. In fact, the only thing preventing him from attaining his Level III certification is youthfulness, as it requires ten years of head coaching experience. Sadly for the Baker University track and field program perhaps its greatest coach since George Bretnall will be leaving following the 2007 campaign. His record provides a simple answer to the question of, does Mallinder deserve a spot alongside Bretnall in the Baker University Athletic Hall of Fame. Additionally, with a record as impressive as Mallinder’s, the task of replacing him will be daunting.

Each period of Track and Field history at Baker University has it own story. Chapter one discuses the solid foundation and early struggle for support, as the program emerged as a successful entity thanks in a large part to dedicated coaches. Success continued throughout chapter two, with even strong coaches building the program’s integrity and reputation. Highs and lows characterized chapter four as coaching standards dwindled but individuals shined. The fourth chapter contained the abandonment of the program, alumni generosity, and dedication to the reestablishment of the Baker University track and field program. The fifth chapter signifies a resurgence of individual success and exceptional coaching prowess; in affect a renaissance of Baker University track and field. It seems likely that chapter six will continue along this path, and perhaps even extend the success to a higher level, rivaling Mallinder and Bretnall, yet history shows that a great deal depends on the coaching and university support.