I don't know of anyone who brings more enthusiasm to their daily tasks than Brock Hime, head coach for the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns cross country and track and field teams.
So, it's no surprise he felt some nerves after waiting 14 months and six days to watch the student-athletes under his direction compete.
"It almost felt like my first meet at Arkansas Tech again because it had been so long and our team has so many new faces," said Hime when asked about the Golden Suns' first cross country meet of spring 2021. "If I had to put one word on it, we were excited. These ladies have worked so hard. It's the emotional side of things because they've put so much time and effort in to be able to toe that line and race."
Hime arrived at Arkansas Tech in summer 2019 and set about the task of building Golden Suns cross country to a championship level and re-starting the Arkansas Tech's women's track and field program. Tangible progress was demonstrated by the fact that Arkansas Tech’s cross country team finished fifth in the 2019 Great American Conference Championships, an improvement of two positions as compared to 2018.
The momentum created during fall 2019 came to a halt when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic arrived in Arkansas. There were no track meets to run in during spring 2020. There were no cross country meets in which to compete during fall 2020. In a sport built around training to peak at specific points on the calendar, the uncertainty was challenging.
"I had to think of it from a perspective I'd never even considered," said Hime. "Once we found out the fall was being pushed to January and February for cross country season, we went to the track, worked on foot speed and ran more miles than we typically would during the fall. It was all about keeping the ladies motivated, keeping me motivated and working hard."
That hard work was rewarded on Friday, Jan. 15, when the Golden Suns hosted and won their season-opening meet.
For Hime, it was evidence that his team and his program are on the right path.
"At the beginning of fall 2019, I told the team that this season will not be about wins and losses," said Hime. "It was about establishing the culture required to hold longevity down the road. We've still got a ways to go, but signing the junior college national champion, the 5A Arkansas state champion and a few others who are fantastic athletes and hard workers will elevate us again next fall. The program has improved by leaps and bounds. The 14 ladies in that locker room have done everything. They've been awesome. Establishing a culture means discipline and buying into a standard. We've improved, and I hope we can show that this season."
The Golden Suns will run in Magnolia on Jan. 29 and Arkadelphia on Feb. 12 in preparation for the GAC Championships, which are scheduled for Feb. 27 in Weatherford, Okla.
After a week-long hiatus, the Arkansas Tech basketball season will resume at Henderson State Thursday, Jan. 21.
There will be no women's game due to COVID-19 concerns within the HSU program. The men's game between the ATU Wonder Boys and the HSU Reddies is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start at the Duke Wells Center in Arkadelphia. Live coverage will be available on KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com.
The Wonder Boys (3-2 overall, 1-2 GAC) are coming off their best performance of the young season, a 66-59 victory over preseason GAC Eastern Division favorite Southern Arkansas University on Thursday, Jan. 14.
"These guys have been getting after it pretty hard in practice, and I hope we continue to do that," said Mark Downey, ATU head men's basketball coach. "The energy (against SAU) was unbelievable. The bench was into it. We're finding ourselves, figuring out what we're about and where guys are going to score from. The constant is defense."
Talk to you on the radio.
Tech Tidbits is a column written by Sam Strasner, ATU director of university relations and radio play-by-play voice for ATU football and basketball.