Oregon State coach Louie Quintana on track to build something big
CORVALLIS — Beginning his third season as women's cross country and track and field coach at Oregon State, Louie Quintana isn't thinking small.
He wants to move the heretofore overmatched Beavers toward the top of the Pac-12 in cross country. He believes they will catch intrastate rival and national power Oregon at some point in the sport. He wants to develop national individual champions in track and field. He wants to be build a championship-caliber cross-country course and, ultimately, help bring men's track and field back to the school.
And: "It's only a matter of time before we get that transformative athlete who changes the landscape of our program."
Quintana was hired in 2017 after 16 years at Arizona State with the idea of accomplishing what his predecessor, Kelly Sullivan, could not. Sullivan took over in 2005 after Oregon State reinstated a women's cross country and distance-running program that had been terminated along with the men's team in 1988.
Sullivan got the ball rolling, including installation of a state-of-the-art track in 2012 that could have been the start of something big. But money was tight and momentum stalled as he tried to improve the quality of his runners as well as complete phases two, three and four of the track and field/stadium project.
Enter Quintana, who exudes confidence and enthusiasm and has already built something to provide optimism for Beavers Believers in his sport.
Last year, Oregon State's cross country team placed sixth at the Pac-12 championships and the west regional, advancing to the NCAA championships for the first time in program history. The Beaver women had not finished better than ninth at the conference meet since 2010.
No. 1 runner J.J. Mount graduated, but the next six competitors from a year ago return. And Quintana has recruited a pair of freshmen, Gabby Peterson from Healdsburg, California, and Meagen Lowe from Clovis, California, who could crack his top five this season. The recruiting class was ranked fifth nationally by Stride Report.
In the first meet of the season, Oregon State won the Viking Rust Buster Invitational in Portland, sweeping the first six places with two juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen. The Beavers didn't use sophomore Mauri Freedman or junior Greta Van Calcar, two of their more acclaimed runners, in the meet that included competitors from Portland State, Portland and Las Vegas. Van Calcar is the daughter of Karl Van Calcar, a former NCAA champion in the steeplechase at Oregon State.
Quintana has recruited 23 freshmen to join a track and field program that is only now being equipped with the NCAA maximum 18 scholarships. Among the incoming freshmen are Centennial's Maddie McHone, the Class 6A champ in both hurdles and the high jump, and 6A javelin champion Sara Sanders from Jesuit.
"We have some pieces that are going to be really productive right away," said Quintana, who helped coach four national championship track teams — one men's indoor, one women's outdoor and two women's outdoor — at Arizona State. He served as head men's and women's cross country coach and distance coach for both genders in track and field there and coached six national champions.
Quintana, 46, likes the progress he has made in a short time at OSU.
"We're ahead of where I'd have anticipated at this point," Quintana said. "Recruiting has gone well the last two years. That's the big piece — when that goes well and the kids produce, the results start to speak for themselves."
Quintana sees the Oregon State job as a personal challenge.
"I was waiting for an opportunity to take over a program," he said. "And as opposed to Tempe, this is a really conducive place to train distance runners. My thinking was, let's go somewhere we can enjoy living, and Corvallis is a phenomenal town for me and my family."
Louie's wife, Andi, teaches at Cheldelin Middle School, where their son Charlie is an eighth-grader. Daughter Ellie is a sophomore at Crescent Valley High.
With Mount departed, pundits are predicting Oregon State to finish seventh in the Pac-12 this fall. Four Pac-12 schools were ranked among the nation's top 10 in the preseason: Colorado, Washington, Stanford and defending conference champion Oregon. The Beavers are not ranked among the nation's top 30 teams.
"Losing a bonafide front-runner is really difficult," Quintana said. "That's probably why we haven't been ranked in the preseason. They're waiting to see who that front-runner will be."
Sophomore Haley Wolf won the Viking Rust Buster title, followed by junior Lexi Reed.
"I think it will be Haley," Quintana said. "Really, I'm on the fence between Haley and Lexi. Mauri is in phenomenal shape and could be our No. 1. Or Greta, who broke our school record indoors in the 5,000 last year. We have some people who can make us better.
"The West is always the toughest region in cross country on the women's side, so being able to navigate that is difficult. We have a tough road ahead of us. We have some expectations and some pressures, which is really good. It's exciting to be there this quickly. We still have a young team. This will be an important year, to see if we can back up what we did last fall."
After the fall, Quintana will begin to focus on the track and field season. The Beavers are in the early process of trying to field a complete team in the sport. Quintana has two full-time assistant coaches and three volunteer assistants.
One of the full-time assistants is throws coach David Dumble, who coached 15 years with Quintana at Arizona State and arrived in Corvallis one year before Quintana did. Dumble coached 23 national champions with the Sun Devils. One of the volunteer assistants is Tim Bright, a three-time Olympian — twice in the decathlon and once in the pole vault. Bright, who lives in the Portland area, commutes to Corvallis once or twice a week to work with the OSU pole vaulters. His daughter, sophomore Audrey Bright, is one of them.
Senior Ann Wingeleth is Oregon State's top returnee in track and field. She placed fifth in the Pac-12 long jump at 19 feet, 8 inches and was 10th at the NCAA championships in the high jump at 5-10.
"The biggest thing for her is keeping her healthy," Quintana said. "If she is able to train and be consistent with her work, she'll be ridiculously successful."
Senior Lindsay McShane finished seventh in the hammer and eighth in discus at the Pac-12 meet a year ago and has thrown 199 feet in the former event. The Beavers redshirted junior Haleigh Sudbeck, who was the Big West hammer champ at Hawaii two years ago.
"We have two women who should approach 200 feet," Quintana said. "We also have a couple of 50-foot plus shot putters and one of the league's better javelin throwers in Jordan Slater, who was ninth at the Pac-12 meet as a freshman last year. We're putting together some depth in the throws."
Quintana's philosophy will be to focus on the distances, jumps, throws, long hurdles and multi-events.
"We can develop some sprinters, too, but our pathway to success will be in the other events," he said.
"Development of our athletes will be huge. We have to develop them to the point where we can start getting high-level kids who are beating down our door."
Amy Cragg believes that will happen. The former Amy Hastings, who was a 10-time All-American and an NCAA indoor and outdoor 5,000-meter champion during her five seasons running for Quintana at ASU, is a 2012 Olympian who earned a bronze medal in the marathon at the 2017 world championships.
"Louie is incredibly inspirational," said Cragg, 35, now running for Jerry Schumacher and the Bowerman Track Club in Portland. "The thing that defines Louie more than anything is he knows how to build a team. He knows how to create camaraderie.
"One of the proudest moments of my career was when we placed fourth in cross-country nationals my junior year. We didn't have the most talented team, but Louie created an environment in which we all came together for one goal. He is an amazing person, and that transfers over to being a great coach."
Cragg predicts good things for the Beavers under Quintana.
"They're going to continue to get better," she said. "Pretty soon the program will recruit itself. Kids will go on recruiting trips there and see how everyone works together, and they're going to want to be part of that."
Shelby Houlihan is a 2016 Olympian who also lives in Portland and runs for the Bowerman Track Club. She had only one year training under Quintana at Arizona State, "but I initially went to ASU because of Louie," she said.
"I knew he was a really good coach," Houlihan said. "He believed in what I can do as an athlete. He is super easy-going, a funny guy, a very positive person. He had a way of keeping you motivated. I respond well to coaches who are just as excited about my running as I am. He was one of those types of people.
"I've followed closely what he's been doing at Oregon State. In the past, that program has been kind of weak, but he's done a good job of quickly in turning things around. For them to make the NCAAs last year was awesome to see. I'm excited to see what that program will continue to do."
Quintana said he was "absolutely stunned" with the recent news that Vin Lananna, the former Oregon coach and president of TrackTown USA, has left Eugene to take over as head coach at Virginia.
"The timing of it was more shocking than anything," Quintana said. "Vin has been very good to me in my career. I've known him for a long time.
"When I first took the job, I drove to Eugene and we talked for an hour. He asked me, 'What's your goal? What do you want to accomplish at Oregon State?' I said, 'If in five or six years we can place fifth or sixth in the conference track and field meet with Oregon not winning, then I'm doing my job.' He said, 'I don't like to hear that.'"
Oregon's program has been successful for many years, and the Ducks will soon have the best college track and field facility in the country in refurbished Hayward Field. Won't that make Quintana's job more difficult?
"I look at it as, we can ride their coattails," he said. "Anything that we do in terms of biting into their ability to have success is success for us. Them not winning the conference title on the women's side would be at least slightly a byproduct of us recruiting well in the state of Oregon. (Oregon State) gives kids an opportunity to go somewhere else.
"Will we beat (the Ducks)? We have to be realistic. We want to continue to get better as a program. The place we can probably catch them is cross country. That will happen at some point."
Oregon State's track is nice, but the facility hasn't been completed. There are no grandstands, press box, scoreboard, rest rooms, concessions and so on. With Oregon State's budgetary constrictions, athletic director Scott Barnes has made clear there are no immediate plans to complete the track and field project.
Completing the facility would be "a matter of people stepping up who are excited to support our program," Quintana said. "That's how it will get done. It's not going to come from our athletic department funds. It's all going to be outside money to finish the track facility.
"It is frustrating," Quintana said, "but it's not going to distract me from wanting our team to be really good. When I took the job and walked the track with (senior associate athletic director) Kyle Pifer, he was a little apologetic about not having the stands and a men's program. None of that really matters to me at this point. I want to get this women's team to be nationally successful. Then we can start having conversations about all those other pieces."
There are many OSU alums and boosters, though, who want to see a return of the men's track and field program. In the past, donations meant toward the re-establishment of the men's program were diverted to the general athletic fund. That didn't go over well with those donors.
"We're aware of that," Quintana said. "I've had conversations with a lot of OSU alums who are excited about the success of our women's program. We're going to focus on continuing to get this team better, but still have those conversations in the background. There are people who hope and dream that we can do that some day."
Quintana would love to have a sitdown with Nike co-founder and UO benefactor Phil Knight, who could help with the $2 million to $4 million needed to complete the stadium project and the additional $4 million it would take to finance the return of the men's program.
"Mr. Knight doesn't know who I am, but getting a sit-down with him would be phenomenal, just to put in my pitch," Quintana said. "The legacy he would create in track and field and the growth of our sport in the state of Oregon could be valuable to everybody. Having a competitive men's and women's track and field program at Oregon State would be good for Oregon, too. It's the perfect time to do it."
On Nov. 1, Oregon State is playing host to the Pac-12 cross-country championships — at the Ash Creek Preserve in Monmouth, the home course for Western Oregon.
"It's an advantage for us, since we go there to train once a week," Quintana said. "It's a 25-minute drive from Corvallis. Western Oregon is the only school I know of west of Logan, Utah, that has a self-dedicated cross-country course."
Quintana would like Oregon State to be the second. He is in conversations with potential donors to cover the $250,000 to $500,000 it would cost to construct such a course. Conversations with owners of land west of Corvallis have taken place.
"We have an architectural rendering of what the course will look like," Quintana said. "Maybe something will happen sooner rather than later."
In cross country, Quintana envisions a day where the Beavers are a national championship contender.
"We'd love to get to the podium (top four)," he said. "We did it twice while I was at ASU."
The coach sees podium visits in track and field, too.
"We want to win national individual titles on the track," Quintana said. "I've had opportunities to talk to Karl Van Calcar and Dick Fosbury and others who have done it here in Corvallis. I know we can do it again if we get the chance."
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