Danecdotes: Lueck resigns as girls track coach
After four years, Jana Lueck has resigned as girls varsity coach for the Pequot Lakes Patriot track team, effective immediately.
Her resignation paves the way for assistant coach Jamie Wagner to become head coach.
"It's his time," Lueck said. "I just feel he deserves this step. He is young, and I want to have him do this ... He can do it, and he is going to do really well. I didn't really want to be the one holding that back. Had there been no one else, I wouldn't dream of going, but he is going to be awesome."
She intends to continue teaching at Pequot Lakes Middle School, but would like to spend more time with her husband, Dan Bzdok, and animals in the spring months.
"Track is three months of my life, and he is in charge of food, our animals and everything really," she said. "It is very tough to just all of the sudden come back to that (at the end of the season)."
She hopes to help the team if occasionally needed, but intends to redirect her attention toward her family and education. She recently joined the district's teachers union board and plans to take part in other education-based projects.
"I feel really good about that," she said. "I feel that my leadership can go to other areas now. If I were still involved in track, I know that I couldn't do that. Now that I have freed myself up in the spring, I have the ability to do other things."
Lueck began coaching track nine years ago, starting as a middle-level coach when her daughters started running.
"I followed with them and got involved as they did," she said. "I think that is the other piece of my stepping down. That family tie isn't there anymore. But in the same realm, all of those kids are my kids. To say I would not still help out would be crushing, because they are very special to me."
Her time with the track team - coaching alongside boys head coach Dave Guenther and assistant coaches Wagner, Jeff Brever and Bud Bjornaraa - has seen a great deal of success, most recently at the 2017 state tournament, where the boys and girls teams both finished second overall.
"Jana is awesome to work with," Wagner said. "She does an amazing job of preparing our athletes to compete at the highest possible level. The athletes know that she cares about them. From making sure they dress appropriately for the weather, standing by them as they struggle in a workout, reminding them to eat properly or celebrating their success, they know she is an advocate for them."
As a coach, "Mama Lu" brought an old-school mentality to the team, insisting athletes be respectful of their coaches, teammates and themselves. She also brought an in-depth knowledge of the sport, particularly with relays.
Though she is stepping away from the full-time aspect of the team, Lueck insists she is "not going anywhere," and is willing to help the athletes she has coached for years as needed.
"Would I ever go back? Maybe, if there is a need," she said. "Right now, let's fill those shoes with somebody younger. I want Coach Wagner to stay in this area. He has the most passion I have ever seen in my life when it comes to coaching and kids, and he deserves that head coaching position. I don't want to hold him back and I don't want him to move away. If having that head coaching position helps keep him here, it is worth it then."
"She has given me the freedom to become a better coach, challenged me to grow in areas of weakness and has empowered me to lead," Wagner said. "Her care and passion have been a big part of our success."
While she will miss the sport and the camaraderie with her fellow coaches, Lueck insists she will miss the athletes the most.
"I don't see any better kids," she said. "I know these kids are going to be successful in their lives. There is just no doubt in my brain that they will be. The effort they give, the amount of sacrifice they are willing to put out there ... I know they will be fantastic employees, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, because of what they have given to everyone else on the track team.
"It is a change, but I do feel it is a good change for the program, and who knows who else we'll bring in to help the program? To me, that is the future, and I feel good about it."