By Brian Keim ‘22
In November 2020, Dr. Michael Gallagher ‘71 announced he would end his 17-year reign as head cross country coach. On February 26, it was announced that his position will be taken over by the current cross country assistant coach Mr. Bob Wolf ‘08.
Mr. Wolf began his Ignatius career as a student running cross country and track. He went on to run at Kenyon College before returning to Ignatius as a science teacher as well as an assistant coach in cross country and track, where he works with sprinters.
In taking over the cross country program, Mr. Wolf wants to preserve the “fantastic family atmosphere” established by Dr. Gallagher, saying many of the cross country runners “are basically each others’ best friends.” Wolf wants to keep those close bonds between runners, and even wants to “keep the parents close.”
Wolf plans to “carry on the faith tradition that Doc [Gallagher] brought in”, praying at every event and “always being able to center and refocus our minds and hearts back to God after every practice.” He said Dr. Gallagher excelled at finding talented coaches, saying, “I would like … not only to be able to do that as well, but also I am blessed that most of those coaches are still sticking around.”
As an Ignatius student, Wolf had no plans to become a coach. Instead he thought he “was gonna be a doctor.’’ But as he got closer to graduation at Kenyon, his thoughts began to change.
“It wasn’t really until my senior year in college where I really didn’t want to give up the sport and I wanted to continue running through coaching,’’ he said, “I wanted to give off what I had learned over the years and give it back to young men. … It’s a blessing to be here, it’s a blessing to be at Ignatius, and obviously it’s a blessing to be coaching.”
When asked which coaches had the greatest impact on him, Wolf immediately responded with “Doctor Gallagher and Mr. [Chuck] Kyle [’69].’’ Wolf admired not only Gallagher’s desire to learn about running, but also “his ability to adapt to change and go from one thing to the other.” He also remembered coach Kyle once saying in a speech “just outwork ’em”. This quote resonated with Wolf, who took to heart the message that, regardless of a person’s skills, “as long as you put forth your best effort, then at the end of the day you can’t necessarily have any doubt or concern about anything. No regrets”.
Wolf said the switch to head coach is “gonna be a lot of work”, but he is “blessed to have a fantastic coaching staff” to help him make the switch. He also stated that, since he has experience with most of the current runners, he will rely on that familiarity in his first year as head coach.
Wolf’s primary strategy will be to get input from the runners and “build a training program around the individual athlete.” As an example, he mentioned that some runners are “a little bit more distance-oriented” while others will “benefit from shorter interval workouts.” This will allow each runner to play to his individual strengths and challenges. He also wants to focus on improving running technique to improve speed.
When asked his expectations for the 2021 season, he simply said, “winning, and just being confident.”