Gschwender captures second state hall of fame berth, this time for track
Tony Gschwender readily admits he used the Louisiana High School track and field program to keep his football players in shape.
But as the retired coach’s career progressed, he produced state track and field champions to go with his 1986 state football team championship and learned to love coaching runners and field events as well.
He must of done something right, because Gschwender will be inducted into the Missouri State Track and Cross Country Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame at its annual convention luncheon in Columbia on Friday, Dec. 13.
It is the second such honor for Gschwender, who was inducted into the Missouri Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007.
“I consider myself a football coach who coached track,” Gschwender said in a recent interview. He got into coaching track in 1978, two years after he arrived in Louisiana.
“Bill Cunningham was my mentor,” Gschwender said of the former coach whose name graces Louisiana’s stadium. “He loved track and taught me the different aspects of each event, so when I became head coach, I knew the events.”
Gschwender liked it so much that he became head coach in 1987 and served until 2004.
“I liked everything about it,” he said. “You could do workouts and see improvement. I also loved organizing track meets and watching it go well.
“I also really enjoyed watching (the athletes) cheer each other on. It was encouraging to know they cared about each other.”
“If you want to be a successful coach, you have to have a supportive family,” Gschwender said. He had that in his wife, Denise, and his children, all of whom played sports.
“I can’t tell you how many uniforms (Denise) washed over the years and how many sandwiches she made for track meets,” Gschwender said.
Gschwender’s formula for track was similar to his football philosophy.
“The most important thing is training with competition and to weight train throughout the season,” Gschwender said. “You want good competition because that’s what teaches kids to perform under pressure.”
Louisiana competed in districts against strong St. Louis private school competition. That led to medals at the state meet, he said.
Weight training was just as important as competing against the best.
“If you stop during the season, you’ll be weaker than you were at the beginning.”
Weight training also helped his teams avoid injuries, Gschwender said.
“You always have to change with the times, you have to keep up with it. We had weight training before anyone else around did,” he said.
Gschwender also used plyometrics concepts used by the Russians to strengthen jumping.
“I’d also do things like call the head coach at Mizzou and go down and talk to him,” Gschwender said. “You would find things out and put them into your system.”
Along with football players, Gschwender spotted potential track and field team members in the physical education classes he taught at Louisiana High.
“One unit was a decathlon and we kept a point system,” on who did best in the 10 track and field events.
“I can’t tell you how many track athletes I found doing that,” Gschwender said. “We went through about five or six years when we didn’t lose a track meet and won conference and district” championships.
“We had some tremendous athletes,” Gschwender said of his track teams.
“The Womack brothers were great. Deneal ran hurdles and Jeff ran the sprints. Jason Calvin won state two years in a row in the shot put, Mason Hutt won in the 100, 200, 400 and in the 4×200 relays and Jessica Nichols won state in the 800.”
With that talent, Gschwender is now a two-sport hall of fame coach in Missouri.
“We ended up having a good time and lots of fun,” he said.