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A Life on the Run - Page 2


Leaving a Legacy

In a press release from the school’s athletic department, former director of athletics Al Ackerman, who held the position from 1991 to 2010, heaped praise upon the two departing coaches.

“If I could pick two people who exemplify UW Oshkosh athletics, they would be Deb Vercauteren and John Zupanc,” he said. “They have been tremendous ambassadors for the university and great role models for our student-athletes. Their accomplishments speak for themselves, but more important are the lives they have touched and helped mold into mature and confident adults. It has been a pleasure to be associated with both of them as a colleague and friend. They will truly be missed.”

Vercauteren, the only women’s cross-country head coach in the program’s history, saw her cross-country teams win a record 15 consecutive Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles from 1986-2000. Those teams won four national titles in that period as well (1987, 1988, 1991, 1996).

Zupanc’s cross-country teams were also incredibly successful as well. His teams won seven conference titles and back-to-back-to-back national titles from 1988 to 1990.

The coaches’ success was not limited to cross-country, either. Vercauteren has 14 national women’s track and field championships and two national coach of the year awards. She has also won 21 WIAC titles and was named the conference’s coach of the year 18 times.

Aiming High

Vercauteren said she attributes in part her success to setting seemingly unattainable goals when she began her career.

“I had a goal—before we won any—my goal was to win ten national titles in the career,” she said. “And so that’s what I was shooting for because usually if you shoot big, you just get close. So, I didn’t want to shoot for one or two because then you might miss. So, my goal was to go for ten.”

In 2008, the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association rewarded Deb Vercauteren for her Herculean coaching achievements. It created the Deb Vercauteren Program of the Year Award that is given to the school that garners the best combined results at the NCAA Division III national championships in cross-country and indoor and outdoor track and field.

Hubby Zupanc’s accomplishments are equally storied. In addition to his seven WIAC coach of the year awards and national coach of the year award, Zupanc has also coached two national champion track and field squads en route to winning two national track and field coach of the year awards.

Zupanc said that one of the most important things to achieve success was having confidence in that no matter where he coached, his teams would be set up to win.

“If you took me to a school and said, ‘Build their cross-country program or their distance guys,’ at my beginning stages, and even now at track and field, I’d probably say, ‘Yeah, I can do that,’” he said. “I felt that it’s possible, and it all starts with having someone who believes that that’s where you’re going to go.”

Vercauteren, without hesitation, points to one thing that every coach needs. “You have to have passion,” she said. “You have to want to live your life around that passion.”


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