Interview with Shannon Maas
James: I’m here with Shannon Maas, the assistant track and field coach who does sprints, hurdles and relays at Southern Oregon University. Shannon, how are you today?
James: Awesome. I’m going to ask you a couple questions about the upcoming track season this year.
Shannon: Fire away.
Question 1; James: First one is, how long have you been coaching? Where do your qualifications come from and where else have you coached, prior to this?
Shannon: That’s a good question. I’ve been coaching track and field for about, what years is it 2016? 2017. This will be my tenth year, collegiate as either head coach or assistant. I had two years off and on as an assistant, actually three. One years as a volunteer assistant at UC Berkeley. Two years as a part time coach of College of the Siskiyous. Berkeley was 1999, 2000 season, Fist Siskiyous would have been 2001, 2002. Second Siskiyous, I think was January 2003, and I was at College of the Siskiyous to 2008, I think was my first season. I finished at Siskiyous in 2014 in the Spring, that was my last season, and I’ve been at Southern Oregon since September of 2014. What was the other part of the question?
James: Where did your qualifications come from? Where did you go to school? Where is your training?
Shannon: Qualifications. Good question. My biggest qualification is my father. He was a football coach, athletic director, track and field coach, at a small community college in Northern California. Since I was a little kid, we were always surrounded by athletes. We’d have for example, maybe half the football team, the defensive side of the football team would come over the house to watch film. This was back in the 80's when the film was the projector.
James: The old school one?
Shannon: The old school one. We’d feed them. I think just being in that kind of environment which was a hyper competitive environment, it’s just infused into me.
James: You’re kind of born into it.
Shannon: Yeah. You’re part of your environment. My father is smart. My brother never gravitated toward sports. He didn’t really have very good hand-eye coordination. He had a ton of strength, but he just really couldn’t put that strength to functional use.
Shannon: Where for me, it was kind of the opposite. I was real small but I was real quick. I could put that to use.
James: It sounds like you got a lot under your belt.
Shannon: Other qualifications aside from that, I’d say, 10, 12 years of collegiate coaching. I’ve got a Master’s Degree in performance enhancement and injury prevention. I’ve got the USATF level one, which is a weekend clinic. I have two level two’s for both, we call them clinics. I have a NASM certification for personal training I also have a NASM certification for corrective exercise specialist. I have a lot of material qualifications, as well as intangible qualifications.
James: And, for those who don’t know, what’s the NASM qualifications?
Shannon: NASM is the National Academy of Sports and Medicine. USATF is the United States of America Track and Field Association. So that’s like the, you get all the Olympic coaches, coaching you in events.
Question 2; James: How do you feel about the incoming freshmen and transfer students as a whole, and where should they be looking into to make this season as best and as competitive as possible?
Shannon: First, let me talk about myself. I think, for me, It’s hard trying to find the right kind of recruits for this kind of University. It’s a small school up in the mountains. It’s kind of isolated, so you have to find the right kind of kid that’s going to come in and mesh with the environment.
Last year’s team, we call it the machine gun approach. You’re just recruiting every single person you can. I didn’t really do a very good job of vetting and making sure they’re the right fit for the program. This incoming class along with coach Manuele and myself, we spent a lot of time, it’s more of a personality test. I think it’s a combination of personality. We’re also looking for good GPAs, they had to have strong recommendations from the coaches. I think, pretty much every single kid on the team so far — it’s early, what is it now, November, December 1st. We really haven’t gone into the fire. I think I’ll know more about this team once we have competition. As of today, I would say I feel about as confident as I’ve ever felt about a group in terms of performance, personalities, characteristics, and their ability to create a good team. I think that’s the most important thing.
James: That’s always good. You mentioned Coach Manuele. Who else is coaching the track team, just so we get that out of the way.
Shannon: The head coach is Grier Gatlin. He’s been here, I think this is going to be his fifth track and field season, I believe. He was also here, he ran here in the mid, early 90s. He was a coach here before in the late 90s for about 8 seasons until the mid 2000s. He’s the head coach. He’s in charge of all the distance events. We have coach Chris Manuele, who is a graduate of Arizona State University. He is 25 years old. He is handling most of the horizontal jumping events, and the pole vaults. He’s going to do the long the triple and the pole vault, and then we have Brian Seavers, who is a recent graduate of Southern Oregon University. He is also pretty young. I think he’s 24. He’s in charge of the three heavy throws, the discus, shot put, and hammer.
James: It sounds like you guys have a pretty small coaching staff, but it definitely seems to be pretty effective for what we’ve been dealt with here.
James: Which is always good to see.
Question 3; James: This year, what does the competition look like in the Cascade Conference, and who do you think is going to be your biggest competition going into the season?
Shannon: That’s a good question. I think on the women’s side, especially, College of Idaho is pretty dominant. They have what you call a ringer. They had a girl that won five or six different events. I think she scored, by herself, probably about 50, 60 points, which is almost as much as her whole team scored last year. She has graduated. I think on the women’s side, it’s kind of a big question mark. If you kind of gauge off cross-country, I think we’d be about third or fourth in the conference. I think in terms of the 100 and the 200, the relays, for the women the 400, I think we’re going to be pretty strong. We have some certain gaps in the long jump, triple, high jump, but we’ll see how it fares out.
Men’s side, we’re pretty confident, we should be pretty dominant. Distance wise, we’re really strong. I think the only hole that we have on the men’s side is throws, but we have Tylor King who is a football player, who threw 54, 55 feet last year.
James: Well its sounds like pretty good rankings. What did you guys finish last year on the men’s and women’s side?
Shannon: On the men’s side, we won the conference championship by, was it two points? One or two points. It came down to the four by four. We did not find out who won the meet until probably about 15 minutes after the last event of the meet. It had to compile the calculations. Women’s team, we got fourth. This year the goal is to win the men’s and the women’s conference championships. That’s what we’re working for.
James: Cool. Always good to hear.
Question 4; James: How do you think the cross country team’s national title will impact this upcoming track season?
Shannon: That’s kind of a good question. I think, obviously a good part of that is we have some momentum. We have a taste of success. The experience of that I think is very important. I think the fear is, you start looking at our team has a lot more competitions compared to other teams, so you just start getting concerned about the health of the athletes once we get to post season.
James: Cool. And, do the cross country team, do they just disperse themselves into the longer distance kind of stuff, or are they primarily going to be the 5k 10k kind of deal?
Shannon: The distance coach handles everything 800 and over. So mid-distance 800, 1500, then you have distance, which would be 5k, 10k and steeple chase. Those events were pretty, we’re going to use Dylan Alexander, who was the national champion in 2014. He doesn’t have any more eligibility. We lost Jared Hixson who was the national champion last year, but we have a very talented group of juniors and seniors this year as well on the team.
Question 5; James: Looking ahead, how do you think you guys are going to end up at post-season, nationals and all sorts of that.
Shannon: That’s a good question. I think right now we don’t know. We just had our first time trial Tuesday. Today is Thursday, so that’s two days ago. I think right now we don’t really … we have an idea. The analogy we’re using is the house of cards, meaning that we’ve built up, we have all of the recruits, we have all the athletes. Everything is in place. Now it’s just a matter of how many cards fall off the house, in terms of injuries, eligibility, etc. In a perfect world, a vacuum, I think we should be aiming for a trophy, which is top four, which would be the first time in school history.
James: That would be insane.
Shannon: That’s on the men’s side. We have this guy named James Montes De Oca, who is a psycho on the pole.
James: Thank you, Shannon for helping us out. We appreciate it and we look forward to hearing more about your success in the upcoming track season.
Shannon: You’re welcome.
James: Take care.
Shannon: Thank you.