Feature: Graeme Badger profile

By Marc Knutila published September 21, 2006

Conventional wisdom tells us that great things just donâ€TMt fall from the sky and land in our laps. That is unless you are UCCS cross country coach Graeme Badger. His remarkably successful cross country coaching career started twenty-seven years ago when he became the head cross country coach at Doherty High School after being the only person who applied for the position. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now, fast forward to 2006, where Badger and his No. 8 ranked girls and highly talented menâ€TMs cross country team are set to compete in the Colorado College Invitational here in Colorado Springs this Saturday, September 23rd at 9 a.m. at Monument Valley Park.

It's been a long and work-laden ride, but through it all Badger has created one of the most successful athletic programs at UCCS.

Simply put, Graeme Badger has been stellar â€" almost Phil Jackson-esque, in a tenure as cross country coach at UCCS which has spanned 11 years, making him the longest active tenured coach on campus.

He is far removed from his days as a swim coach in Illinois almost forty years ago.

Believe it or not, Badger was a collegiate swimmer at the University of Michigan. Cross Country never even hit his radar until getting the Doherty job by default.

Itâ€TMs true, cross country just fell into his lap. And he hasnâ€TMt looked back.

After retiring as a teacher and coach at Doherty, he took on his next great challenge: starting a cross country program at UCCS.

Like any program, Badger, along with his wife and assistant coach Sandra, struggled initially after accepting the cross country job at UCCS.

“When we started our program was pathetic,” Badger candidly admits.

Being the doormat of the RMAC Conference did not last long. In just his second year Badger began to have success.

“(In my second year) we had the first athlete in UCCS history that qualified for Nationals,” Badger explained.

Badger's standards have risen exponentially and the program has got to the point that he almost comes to expect both individuals and his teams to qualify for Nationals every year.

“Our athletes are as good as anywhere,” Badger explained.

But how did this transformation happen? How did his teams get so good, so fast? One of his reasons may surprise you.

“Running is a science,” Badger explained.

Badger's belief in science having a direct effect on successful running led him to the science department at UCCS.

“We have a great relationship with the science department,” Badger replied.

As unusual as it sounds, he gives a lot of credit to UCCS professors such as Dr. Jackie Berning and Dr. Jeffrey Broker. In fact, just prior to the interview he had just received some information he was expecting.

“Dr. [Andrew] Subudi just finished treadmill testing all of our freshmen,” Badger explained. “Thatâ€TMs something we have that I donâ€TMt know if all the other sports have.”

As unusual as Badgerâ€TMs reasons for a successful program, perhaps even odder is his hobby.

“Iâ€TMm a wood chopper,” he said while laughing. And with a big smile he added, “Thatâ€TMs what I do in my spare time, I chop wood.”

For anyone who has never chopped wood, it rivals the effort it would take to push your car in neutral up the hill on Austin Bluffs when you're coming from Academy. But Badger is up to the challenge.

“I chopped wood for two hours today,” Badger admitted with a chuckle.

It seems even he realizes how peculiar his hobby is. But there is some sanity to his madness.

“I do it to keep the forest in good shape,” he said.

Oddly enough, that is exactly how you could characterize his cross country teams for this year: in good shape.

As mentioned already his girls team is ranked No. 8 in the nation and his menâ€TMs team is also very talented. Both teams are ready for the bulk of their season. However, due to a strange schedule, this Saturday's home meet is the only one in Colorado Springs all year. Because of that, the team is hoping Saturday's meet will draw UCCS fans out.

“It really fires them up when there are fans at the meet,” Badger explained. “They really respond to that.”
It seems, Coach Badger that they also really respond to you. The proof is in the pudding:
- 15 All-Americans
- RMAC Cross Country coach of the year 2000
- Coach of four marathoners who met qualifying standards for the Olympics
- In 2000 his team finished 10th nationally, the highest ever achieved by a UCCS athletic team in any sport at that point.
- Longest tenured coach at UCCS
- Personally raised the money to create the UCCS track and field teams

It's clear that Badger has done his part for UCCS athletics. It's time that UCCS fans start doing their part, by acknowledging and supporting Badger and the UCCS cross country and track teams. It's the least we can do.

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