Jelen excited to head UJ track and field, cross country teams
Jelen is coming into the program after six seasons with Wildcats in which 11 athletes won conference championships.
JAMESTOWN — After seven years at Abilene Christian University, Jarvis Jelen has decided to come back up north, be closer to his family become the new director of track and field and cross country at the University of Jamestown.
“I grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and I have looked at getting back into the region for a long time and most of my family is still there,” Jelen said. “It’s not super far away and I have a lot of high school coach connections in the region. So, I was looking forward to getting back and recruiting South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and the region.”
On Jan. 11, Jelen was hired as the new director of track and field and cross country.
Prior to accepting the job, Jelen did have some connections to Jamestown as he was coached in high school by Mark Greeno, the nephew of legendary UJ track and field, cross country and football head coach Rollie Greeno. Jelen said he was close with Rich Greeno, Rollie’s brother.
He said he first brought up the idea of having a director of track and field and cross country role to Jimmies athletic director Austin Hieb during his interview.
“As we went through that came clear to them, I think to all of us that, that would be a good route to take for the program, having combined leadership and unity and mission and culture of the program,” Jelen said.
Jelen will be moving to Jamestown and starting his job with the Jimmies on Feb. 27. Jelen said his contract with the Jimmies is a year-to-year deal. Jelen is not coming to the Jimmies alone as he is being joined by his wife, Emily, and their four kids.
Jelen ran collegiately at NCAA Division I Liberty University (Va.), where he participated in the steeplechase, 5K and 4K races. He also ran cross country for the Flames.
Jelen spent many years climbing the coaching ladder as he has coached at the high school, NCAA Division III and NCAA Division I levels.
“Every place you go has different challenges and different positives,” Jelen said. “So, being at a variety of places helps you to manage different kind of challenges but that being said, settling down at ACU for a while for seven years has been really fundamental to my growth as a coach. Just because I’ve been able to build something and be able to see what happens when you develop people over a long period of time and a program over a long period of time and that’s what I love to do.”
Over his coaching career, Jelen said he has been able to bring in his experience as a kinesiology major, studying how the body moves. During his career, Jelen said he has been able to study more than just the running aspects but also the psychology of his runners and athletes.
“Tapping into relationships and growth and ability to mentor the student-athletes and to lead a program, expanded my ability as a leader throughout the years. I think gaining wisdom over time and being more mature and older as a person and having a family brings out a lot of that as well.”
Jelen said the best coaches are ones who are able to combine all of the pieces that make up a good program. Jelen said the coaches need to combine the ability to coach their runners as people and athletes.
Current interim head coach Jim Clark will be moved back into his role as associate head coach for both the men’s and women’s track and field teams and head coach for the cross country teams.
Jelen will be overseeing almost 90 student-athletes and a tentative staff of five people. Jelen said he will work with his staff to help the program have as much success as possible and let his staff thrive in their specific event groups.
“The reality is if you have a great staff, and you work together, and you get all of the things done, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses all the athletes get taken care of when we’re firing on all cylinders,” Jelen said.