Marshalltown High School coach Chad Pietig has always felt involved with the varsity cross country programs even though he was not a high school cross country coach.
That will change next though as the long-time junior high coach has been promoted to head boys cross country at MHS, according to activities director Tim Bell.
"I have always taken pride in helping out the high school teams and have always felt like I was involved with the programs indirectly," said Pietig. "It is a huge honor and I am excited for the new challenge."
Pietig, the MHS girls track coach, takes over for Bell, who guided the program to 25 team berths into the state tournament in his 32 years as head coach.
"I remember running in high school and seeing Marshalltown all over the place," Pietig said. "They have a strong tradition here, and I am excited to continue that tradition."
Bobcat sophomore Rachel Blagg has had the chance to learn the art of running under Pietig during the last two springs on the girls track and field squad. She said the latest Bobcat head coach will excel in his new role.
"I think he will do a great job," said Blagg, who ran in two events at this weekend's state track meet in Des Moines. "He's really, really, really, really passionate about running. It's not just a job to him. It's a lifestyle. I know he will do well with that job."
Pietig will take over one of the most prestigious cross country programs in the state. The Bobcats have been a part of the state meet 30 times, which ranks second all-time to Ames (31). Bell guided at least one runner to the state meet in 27 of his 32 seasons.
"I love working with kids and I love to coach running," said Pietig, who served as the junior high boys and girls cross country coach for the past nine years. "I love training and researching training. I love science-based training. Every kid can succeed that way."
Like many of the other Bobcat athletic programs, Pietig said the biggest obstacle early on will be to recruit the hallways to add numbers to the roster, a trend declining in the wrong direction at the school.
"We need to build the numbers up for sure," he said. "I will recruit hard and see what I can do in the next few week while school is still in session."
Bell resigned from his cross country position almost immediately after the 2012 season ended in October. And what Blagg likes most about Bell's successor is the way he encourages his runners to be all they can be.
"He is encouraging and really believes in me and I appreciate that," Blagg said.