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Longtime Tabor Coach David Kroeker to Retire at End of 2024 Season

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HILLSBORO, Kan. (KCACSports.com) — As he begins the 2023-2024 indoor track and field season, Head Coach David Kroeker has announced that this will be his final year of coaching at Tabor College.

“Working at Tabor College has always been something that I was committed to but also something that was bigger than myself. It wasn’t just about me. So when I tell people that I bleed blue, that means that I want everything at Tabor to be excellent: academics, every sport, music, the Tabor College experience for every kid–that’s what I desire. I will tell recruits that ‘I want you to choose Tabor for Tabor and I get to do track as well,"” Kroeker said.

“Coach Kroeker has served Tabor faithfully for many years. His obedience to faithfully serve the Lord in all he does is evident to those who have come into contact with Coach over the years. His “Tabor first” attitude has impacted so many over the years and that hasn’t gone unnoticed. He has a wealth of institutional knowledge that will be missed, and I hope he will allow us to tap into it from time to time. We will miss his hard work, but wish him the very best in the next chapter of his life. I know he will continue to be a champion for Christ and His Kingdom!” Tabor’s Director of Athletics David Ediger said.

A multi-sport athlete and 1978 graduate from Tabor, Kroeker returned in the fall of 1997 as a  full-time professor in the Business Department and as an assistant football coach. After a couple years as an assistant coach, the head football job came open and he hoped he would get the chance to coach his alma mater but the opportunity never came. Kroeker stayed on in the role as assistant coach through 2009.

“I came back to Tabor with the goal of being the head football coach someday. When Tabor didn’t give me an interview, it was a real spiritual shock because I thought I knew what God’s will for my life was–but I obviously didn’t. After some humbling soul searching, the Holy Spirit got me to the point where I was willing to be an assistant for Tim McCarty to help Tabor football be better. God knows what’s best for us even if we don’t see it at first,” Kroeker said.

Kroeker, who is now in his 24th season as head track and field coach, took on the coaching role beginning in the 2000-2001 season. At the time there was no fall or indoor track so all activities started out in January of 2001.

“Karol Hunt was the cross country coach and was going to coach the distance runners, one of her assistants was going to coach the sprints and the jumps and then one of the football assistants was going to help with throws and recruiting. None of those people were available by the time the first practice rolled around. That first day of practice we had 14 kids total in the whole program and there were a number of events that I didn’t know anything about,” Kroeker said.

“I feel like every college athlete should get coached well in every event they do so I went to work learning events like the hammer, pole vault, and javelin. Coaching track is about hard work and genetics—being consistent and persistent in training. There isn’t a lot of strategy in T&F and there aren’t any secrets that can’t be known so I set out to learn what I needed to know. I have a video library of VHS & DVDs; I went to clinics and read lots of books and magazine articles. I also talked to coaches who were successful and learned as much as I could from listening to their advice as well as watching and listening to them at track meets,” Kroeker continued.

Early in his track and field coaching career, Kroeker decided that he needed a theme for his program that would carry over from year to year. He decided on a somewhat modified version of 1 Corinthians 9:24-25: ‘Run (jump or throw) in such a way to get . . . a crown that will last forever.’

“The legacy I’d like to leave is in the lives of the athletes I had the privilege of coaching. I wanted every athlete to have heard the gospel. Every athlete that has competed here has worn those 2 verses on their back,” Kroeker continued. “I hope that they saw Christ in me and they’d be influenced towards Him.”

Kroeker continued to be an assistant football coach throughout the early 2000’s, including during some of Tabor’s most successful seasons. He recalled the 2004 double overtime 43-42 victory at Bethel to clinch the conference championships as one of his favorite Tabor memories.

In 2009, Kroeker decided to focus on just coaching track and field. He mentioned that he evaluates his coaching not based on accolades, but by how much the athletes are able to improve their personal bests. “Also, in recruiting, I’ve never left a name that somebody’s given me uncalled, (not) texted, (not) tried to recruit. I’ve done my best to bring athletes to Tabor that would become successful athletes, great people, and great alumni.”

“Personal records have always been very special to me and that’s a possibility for every athlete that I’ve ever coached. I remember a guy that long jumped twenty feet at the conference track meet and that was the first time he’d ever gone over 20 feet. He didn’t score for the team but we had a great time celebrating something he had never done before,” Kroeker said.

Since taking over the program in 2001, Kroeker has been the KCAC Track and Field Coach of the year seven times: men in 2004 and 2012, women in 2003, 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2021. As for what he attributes the success to, he talked about how much it has always been about the athletes and he just tried to provide the framework within which they could reach their potential in track and field.

“The spiritual aspect of coaching is the most important to me and every team that I’ve ever coached. Every year at one of the first practices, I tell the team that I want them to be as competitive as they can be, but that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is that you are with me in heaven,” Kroeker said.

Some of Kroeker’s highlights include coaching 20 NAIA First Team All-Americans, coaching his three daughters and seeing his youngest, Cassie, get All-Conference Honorable Mention as a senior in the hammer. Maybe the biggest highlight happened in May of 2021. Kaileigh Dill became the first and only NAIA national champion in any sport in Tabor’s history. She won the women’s shot put at that year’s outdoor national championships.

While he is not sure what the future holds for him after the season, Kroeker said that he has been spending time with the Lord in prayer. “The scary part for me is not knowing for sure what the next season of life will be like. But I am excited about what God has for me, even if I don’t know today exactly what that is,” Kroeker said. “I’m looking forward to what that purpose is going to be when I don’t come to the office every day at Tabor anymore.”

The one thing Kroeker is sure of is that he is looking forward to the chance to be around his family more often.

“There are things that I’ll be able to do that I wouldn’t have been able to do like following my grandkids through their sports, music, or whatever they do. I can be more involved in their lives. My oldest is a sophomore in high school this year. My oldest grandson just started playing football this year in middle school. I’ll be able to go to all their games and not have to choose between the state track meet and the national track meet for the NAIA, which I did this last year. My granddaughter got fourth in the state in the 800 in 2A and I had to watch it on my phone on the way back from the NAIA Outdoor National Championships.” Kroeker said.

Kroeker expressed his unwavering dedication to Tabor over the years saying, “I wanted a purpose for doing what I was doing that I thought was bigger than just me. For the last 23 years that purpose has been trying to make Tabor something to be proud of. I hope I did that.”

Kroeker and the Bluejays are scheduled to begin their indoor track and field season on Saturday, Dec. 2 at the Washburn University Invite in Topeka, Kan., with the outdoor season set to follow in March.

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