Former Lake Superior State distance standout Steve Eles has been named LSSU's head cross country and track coach.
Eles replaces Drew Ludtke, who took over a newly-established track program at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Ill., after three seasons with the Lakers.
Eles graduated from LSSU in 2003 with a BS in electrical engineering and spent two years as a graduate assistant at Tiffin University, where he earned a master of business administration degree.
"Tiffin is a small university of about 1,500 students," Eles said. "It doesn't have the facilities that we have, but they are a private school and better off financially. The head coach has done a good job increasing the team's numbers.I have learned a lot about recruiting, keeping the athletes happy and managing a large team."
Eles was in charge of Tiffin's distance corps and sent one cross country qualifier and several track and field qualifiers to nationals. The steeplechase is his specialty, and his athletes finished first, third, sixth and seventh in that event in 2004, and first, fifth and sixth in 2005 at the American Mideast Conference Championships. Tiffin's cross country team improved dramatically during the last two years, jumping from 18th at the 2003 NCAA Great Lakes Regional Meet to sixth in 2004.
Eles was also the program's academic coordinator, and he helped the Tiffin women's cross country team earn Academic All-America status with a 3.46 grade point average.
The Sudbury, Ont., native hails from the same area as LSSU's new head hockey coach, Jim Roque. Because of his Canadian roots, Eles brings extensive experience as an athlete and coach in Nordic skiing.
As a runner, he won the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference 3,000-meter steeplechase title and was a national qualifier. He placed seventh in the World Championships Trials in 2003 and 12th in the Olympic Trials in 2004. He finished sixth in the 1998 Canadian Nationals and eighth in 2002.
Eles also earned All-GLIAC honors in the steeplechase, the men's 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs, and the men's 4x800-meter relay. He still holds LSSU's steeplechase record of 9:11.71.
Under Ludtke's guidance, LSSU's track and field program has grown from less than two dozen athletes in 2002 to a roster of 74. Fund-raising will be Eles' top priority so he can give more athletes an opportunity to compete and bolster the team's retention rate.
"My first goal is to travel with more people, and my second goal is to travel to better meets," Eles said. "We will have to concentrate on fund-raising, and we have a lot of things in mind."
Eles' wife, Sarah, who is finishing her exercise science degree at LSSU, has taken over as the program's chief fund-raiser. Their first projects include a car wash at Wal-Mart on Aug. 26, one of several gift basket raffles and a 1 million pennies campaign.
The LSSU cross country and track and field teams will also continue to follow Ludtke's lead and participate in community service projects, including the Chi Mukwa Halloween Carnival and the Soo Theater Project.