UMD hires Scott Keenan as interim head coach of women’s cross country

Keenan was named interim head coach on August 29, a week before the season. According to Berlo, Keenan originally had no interest in the position, but ended up changing his mind. Photo courtesy of UMD Athletics.

On August 29, 2018, UMD announced that Scott Keenan will be the interim Women’s Cross Country head coach. The move comes after the sudden resignation of former head coach Joanna Warmington.

Keenan is a UMD alum and former track runner who served as head coach of St. Scholastica’s Men’s and Women’s Cross Country from 1980 to 1990. Keenan was also the founder and director of Grandma’s Marathon for 36 years, before retiring in 2013.

“He is only coming in as a internationally renowned distance expert,” Josh Berlo, Athletic Director at UMD, said. “He’s coming in to coach and help our young women reach their full potential.”

Berlo said that the hiring of Keenan not only ensures great coaching, but it also allows UMD the flexibility to do a national head coaching search.

“It’s a national search and we’ll widely promote it and we’re excited to see [what happens],” Berlo said. “We think that there will be strong interest.”

The athletes on the team are excited about Keenan and what he brings to the team.

“I think that he is going to be a really good coach, he has a lot of experience,” UMD Sophomore Gabriella Brinkley said. “He’s coached national runners, like All-Americans, he has a lot of knowledge. He really focuses on teamwork more and I think that’ll be a big part [of his coaching].”

Berlo said he wants to move quickly on finding a new head coach, but they also want to make sure that they take their time in finding a new leader for the program.

“We’re going to let the process lead us to the best possible coach,” Berlo said. “That could happen very quickly and it could take a little bit of time. The great young women that are in the program deserve that and we’ll make sure that we find the next incredible coach for us.”

Warmington’s resignation came as a surprise, especially with the season right around the corner. Warmington resigned due to allegations of sexual misconduct towards the student-athletes, but the team is not trying to let that stop them of reaching their potential.

Warmington’s resignation stunned some on the team, but they are determined to support each other and use this as momentum for the season. Photo courtesy of UMD Athletics

Warmington’s resignation stunned some on the team, but they are determined to support each other and use this as momentum for the season. Photo courtesy of UMD Athletics

“It was a little bit hard to get the resignation,” UMD Senior Tayler Hebner said. “It was kind of sudden, we weren’t expecting that right then, especially right as we are getting going on our training for the season.”

“We’ve been used to her coaching for my whole career here at UMD,” Hebner said, “but again at this point we have to keep positive and support each other whether it’s new freshman coming in that were recruited by her or the returners who have been coached by her for years.”

Berlo said he wants to move quickly with the search, but they don’t have a list of any potential candidates.

According to Berlo, the team has been informed about their plan for finding a new coach. There will be members of the team on the committee to help decide on the new coach.

“It’s important to get their feedback,” Berlo said. “We’ll also at some point soon solicit some broader feedback from the team about what the characteristics of a great coaches that they believe in.”

Brinkley, who is one of athletes on the committee, has an idea about what she wants in the next coach.

“What I would look for is someone who is a professional and has team goals for us," Berlo said. "Straight forward in what they want [out of the team].”

The upcoming season begins Thursday, Sept. 6, at the Dan Conway Classic in Superior, Wisconsin. There is optimism around the team that with that has happened that this can still be a successful season.

“It is going to take all of us to do well,” Hebner said, “so we do really have to pull together and all be putting forth our best effort in practices no matter who is in charge. It’s really going to take a team to do the incredible things I know we can.”