Weekly Feature



2018-07-11 / Sports

Weldon tabbed Bee’s Coach of the Year

Even as a young athlete, Justin Weldon knew that coaching was something he’d eventually want to do.

Loving the sport of running as much as he did — and still does — and having a passion for teaching made it an easy choice to pursue coaching cross-country and track once he finished his own competitive cross-country career at Canisius College, and it’s safe to say that a large number of athletes have benefited from his knowledge over the years.

This past school year was no exception, as Clarence’s cross-country and track programs all enjoyed high levels of success under his guidance, and his role in that success led to Weldon’s selection as the 2017-18 Clarence Bee Coach of the Year.

And Weldon gives a large share of the kudos for what he and his squads achieved this season to someone who’s technically not even on the coaching staff, but who’s role in what Weldon accomplished this year can’t be understated: his wife.

“There are so many great coaching choices at Clarence, so I’m honored and thankful to have been chosen,” Weldon said. “And I also wanted to say that if it wasn’t for my wife, I would not be here coaching. She is a saint. We have a 2-year old daughter at home and my wife sacrifices just as much as me, if not more, to allow me to do what I love. She always picks up the slack and keeps things running smoothly and I am so grateful to have her. Coaching all three seasons is a huge time commitment and I think she helps make it happen because she knows how much I love coaching.”

Knowing that things are under control at the homestead allows Weldon to give his all when working with his athletes, whether that be at practice or at a meet. And Weldon’s attention to detail during all three seasons certainly led to impressive results, including the boys’ cross-country team winning its first Section VI Class A title since 2013 and the girls’ squad placing second. The boys went on to place seventh at states, while the Lady Red Devils’ Maggie Danzer, who qualified as an individual, was the second-fastest Section VI competitor in the Class A race.

The squads had earlier achieved the same successes in the Division I race at ECICs to set the tone for a solid postseason in the fall.

“For cross-country, I feel like my main role as their coach was developing the youth we had, while providing training and focus that equaled our performance goals,” Weldon said. “I think that’s why the proudest achievement I had this year was what we did at sectionals for cross-country. Both teams put in a tremendous amount of effort that season, and for many that day was a culmination of three years’ worth of hard work.

“The thing I like most about these sports I coach is that you get out what you Justin Weldon, left, took his own philosophies to heart and gave his all while coaching during the cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track seasons, which led to not only his athletes — like Maggie Danzer, middle, who nearly doubled her seeding for the state Class A cross-country championships to place 51st overall — achieving success, but also to his selection as The Clarence Bee’s 2017-18 Coach of the Year. File photo Justin Weldon, left, took his own philosophies to heart and gave his all while coaching during the cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track seasons, which led to not only his athletes — like Maggie Danzer, middle, who nearly doubled her seeding for the state Class A cross-country championships to place 51st overall — achieving success, but also to his selection as The Clarence Bee’s 2017-18 Coach of the Year. File photo put in,” Weldon continued. “So, with hard work the average person can become above average, the above average person becomes very good and the talented person can become great. It is always exciting for the athletes to see improvement and measure their success.”

Indoor track is more of an individual-based sport, with not even a handful of the meets scored from a team standpoint. That’s where Weldon’s coaching ingenuity comes into play a bit more, as he noted that the winter is when he finds himself “changing things up and trying to break up the monotony of the weather and being regulated to treadmills, as well as finding ways to push the athletes without being able to go outside due to the temperatures.”

“During the indoor season, it’s a lot more about being a motivator,” said Weldon, who began his coaching career as a volunteer assistant in 2009 at Lew-Port before moving over to his alma mater, Star- point, for five years. “But, that’s also when knowing what works for each athlete after three years together becomes a huge bonus. It is important to train each athlete individually and find a way to arrive at your goals together.

“And I would say the toughest challenge is aligning performance goals with actions, whether that’s indoor or outdoor track, or cross-country,” Weldon continued. “It’s important to do what it takes to be a champion and not just say it. So we as coaches try to make that connection and draw the map to success, and explain what it takes to compete at a high level.”

Doing what it takes to compete at a high level helped the girls outdoor track team open the spring with a team title at the Buffalo Public Schools Invitational and then add the team title at the Hornell Invitational a couple of weeks later. Having some top-notch assistant coaches helped Weldon fully implement everything that he wanted to do in order to help his athletes be their best.

“When it came to the outdoor season, I feel like my role was more about helping to develop new leadership while embracing the leadership that already existed, improving communication and then creating a team culture and dynamic,” Weldon said. “I have the help of a lot of great assistant and co-coaches all year long in Geoff Koch, Frank Payne and Kevin Mc- Cuen. But, it’s also great to have athletes who are willing to work hard and truly push themselves. Without the athletes’ and fellow coaches’ help, what we did this year would not have been possible. It has also been crucial to continue the development of the athletes from season to season and year to year.”

Aside from his wife, someone else not on the Clarence coaching staff whom Weldon believes played a measurable role in the Red Devils’ successes this season is Williamsville North boys cross-country coach Brian Lasher, who was his high school coach and one of the first to give him a chance to coach himself. Weldon noted that he “learned a lot” from Lasher in terms of “training and the approach to the sport.” The two work together during the summer at the All-WNY Cross-Country Camp, which only further solidifies their relationship in Weldon’s eyes.

When not coaching at the summer camp, though, Weldon spends spare moments reading different coaching books and watching various workouts online in order to try and stay up on the most current trends.

“It’s always my goal to improve our training in some facet each year,” Weldon said. “Our foundation remains pretty similar each year, but the tiers of training to follow are always tweaked. I try to pull valuable bits and pieces in to our training and incorporate it in a way that there is a progression, so that each day has a purpose.

“In the grand scheme of things, I would say my overall philosophy is to work hard but have fun at the same time,” Weldon continued. “I know that sounds cliché, but we try to have a balance between difficult workouts and fun team activities. I always say hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, so we always want to make sure the team is prepared for any opponent and not afraid to put in the work to do so.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

Return to top


Clarence Special Events 2018
Click for schedule