Before head coach and director of track and field Kathleen Raske came to Sacramento State, the Hornets had never finished better than fourth at a Big Sky Conference Championship.
Since her arrival in the fall of 2003, Raske has guided the Hornets to nine Big Sky titles and has also provided a sense of pride for those in the Sac State community.
Raske received her first coaching experience at Southern Illinois University, where she began overseeing camps and clinics for her former head coach. She developed a passion for coaching during her post-collegiate days when was offered a part-time coaching position at her alma mater.
Raske’s early exposure to coaching is something that allowed her to become knowledgeable in the training and development of athletes.
“Being a student of the sport as an athlete really increased my knowledge about training, preparation and basically everything that a coach needs to know,” Raske said. “I couldn’t get my hands on enough of the literature just being a student of the sport myself.”
Raske also spent time coaching at Miami University and Central Michigan University before coming to Sac State.
When Raske came to Sac State, there were aspects that Raske felt needed to be addressed in order for the team to have a successful future.
“What this program needed was structure,” Raske said. “It needed vision and it needed an overhaul.”
One of the elements that Raske was committed to change was the team’s outlook on the sport.
“I brought in my own coaching philosophies and number one in my coaching philosophy is approaching track and field as a team sport,” Raske said.
Though it was difficult task to accomplish, Raske believed that changing the team’s attitude toward the sport would bring about a much more positive experience for her athletes, as well as a winning environment.
“It started way back when to get those student athletes to buy into the team concept because everybody was running around as individuals and not caring about the team,” Raske said. “I feel there’s nothing more special than being a part of the college team and it will shape your entire college experience into a much more positive one.”
Assistant coach Jeff Magley believes the team’s success is related to the principles Raske has taught her athletes.
“The biggest thing that coach Raske has brought to our program is her team philosophy,” Magley said. “In order to be successful at winning team championships, the athletes have to be focused on the team’s performance as opposed to just their individual performances.”
In Raske’s first year, the Sac State track and field program experienced success that would carry on in the upcoming years.
“In my first year, we broke 14 school records and we went from second-to-last to third on the men’s side and second-to-last to fifth on the women’s side,” Raske said. “That first year was spent revamping, restructuring and challenging the student athletes to a much higher level which started the momentum for the next years.”
During his time at Sac State, senior Ronald Brookins has benefitted from Raske’s coaching by setting multiple school records and achieving All-American honors.
“She has faith in me and trusted in me as an athlete and has high expectations of me,” Brookins said. “For a coach to say that you can be great as long as you keep working, it just helps me perform better knowing that she’s behind me.”
Along with leading the team to multiple titles, Raske has also won nine Coach of the Year awards dating back to 2007. It is achievement she openly shares with her staff because of the efforts they all contribute to making the program a success.
“The journey over the course of the eight years has been very rewarding,” Raske said. “My staff and I, we work our tails off and it’s nice to be able to create and build something collectively and enjoy the fruits of our labor.”
After coaching for more than two decades, the most fulfilling aspect of coaching is the relationships she has built with the athletes she has coached.
“I think about 22 years of coaching and just the relationships I still have from Miami University, Central Michigan and all those places that I have been to and to this day, I am still in contact with a lot of my alum,” Raske said. “It’s very special and very rewarding.”
The success of the track and field program is something Raske believes the people of Sac State can cherish and also take pride in.
“We have a phenomenal facility and now we have a phenomenal track program to match,” Raske said. “I think it brings great recognition to the university and I hope it’s a source of pride for the university community and also our alumni.”
You can reach Anthony Honrade at [email protected]
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