Coming to the Coulee Region is like a coming-home party for UW-La Crosse women’s track and field coach Nickolas Davis, even though he spent his college days on the eastern side of the state.
Davis returns to Wisconsin after spending four seasons as an assistant coach with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology program. While Davis was there, the Engineers finished in the top-6 nationally three of the four seasons.
He was also an assistant at Marquette University in Milwaukee for four seasons.
When Davis and his family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, five years ago, he had a hunch that Wisconsin would always bring him home.
“When I got the job at MIT, we had talked about plans and where we’d like to be five to seven years down the line,” Davis said. “I said to my wife very distinctly, ‘Maybe this is the right step for us right now, and who knows? In five or so years, maybe the UW-La Crosse job will open up.”
Davis has visited La Crosse, and competed here as a high school student-athlete and coach.
“Being a track person, I know what UW-La Crosse track and field stands for not only in Wisconsin, but in the entire nation. It was a no-brainer.”
It’s not hard to find Davis in a meet.
Davis, a UW-Milwaukee graduate who took over the Eagles program in the summer, has an orange-haired beard that is easily noticeable.
“The one nice thing about having a beard as a track coach … if you’ve ever been to a track meet, it can be pretty chaotic,” Davis said. “If an athlete needs to find me, they have to look for the beard. I’m easy to spot.”
He embraces the beard, too. His Twitter handle: @jumpingbeard.
Davis said he had the beard while competing for the Panthers and it’s been a moniker for him since.
The Eagles and Davis are off to a good start. On Saturday, UW-L won the Midwest Track & Field Classic at UW-Whitewater.
Eagles freshman Maddie Nelson won the triple jump (38-10½ feet) and freshman Brianna Schyvinck had the longest shot put throw (40-10¼).
In all, UW-L had 31 top-eight finishes.
“Our biggest strength is depth,” Davis said. “We’re an extremely young, dedicated and talented team. We have a lot of individuals who are getting up there at the national level. This is a strong core of women.”
Nelson, for example, is ranked as the Midwest Region’s top triple jumper, while Eagles juniors Betsy Schreier and Tess Miller are also in the top 10, according to the USTFCCCA.
The Eagles have four student-athletes — Westby High School grad Caycee Bean, Onalaska grad Amanda Wiebke, Logan grad Kemmesha Thomas and Green Bay East’s Ariel Malvitz — ranked in the women’s penathlon.
While the Eagles are young in most fields, the senior leadership can be found with the distance runners.
Senior Sadie Kroll is ranked eighth regionally in the 3,000-meter run and second in the mile.
UW-L is in action Friday at Mankato State.