By: Jamie Tritschler, Athletic Communications Intern
As Head Coach Angela Fitch enters her second year at Brandywine, she takes on the role of head coach for two sports: track and field and cross country. With her many years of experience as a track athlete, Coach Fitch looks forward to passing along her experience to a new group of student-athletes this upcoming season.
JT: How many years have you been coaching track and field?
AF: I've been coaching for a total of 10 years and I'm going into my second season at Penn State Brandywine.
JT: What is your experience as a track and field athlete?
AF: I ran for Willingboro Track Club, South Jersey Track Club and for Washington Township High School. I ended up getting a full scholarship to LaSalle University; I ran the 100, 200, and 400, the 4x4 and the 4x1. I ran indoor too: the 60-meter and the 400-meter.
JT: How did you transition into coaching track and field?
AF: Track and field has always been my passion and I was mentored by great coaches and I felt a need to pay it forward. Carl Lewis' father was Bill Lewis. He was my first coach when I ran for Willingboro Track Club and he actually started that track club. It still goes on to this day and basically, they are a three-pronged outreach program to student-athletes. There's academics, character, and then of course the sport of track and field. That program has produced Olympians and actually, everyone that I ran with there got a scholarship to a Division I school for track and field.
JT: Who were your mentors as an athlete and how did they influence you?
AF: Bill Lewis, he was my first track coach. He was actually a third grade teacher so he worked within the public school system and he and his wife, Evelyn Lewis, started Willingboro Track Club. Their son, Carl Lewis, was a nine-time Olympic medal winner. They started the program as a way to help students stay focused in school, while running track. They focused on academics, character education and track and field. Anybody could join the regular team, but they had a travel team that you could be chosen for and I was one of those athletes. We ran meets in California, Texas, Florida and Maine. I ran for Willingboro Track Club between the ages of 13 and 17 years old, as well as South Jersey Track Club. At South Jersey Track Club, there was a coach by the name of Doc Williams, he actually is the World Master's Champion of the 100 meter and the hurdles.
JT: How did you get involved in track and field at such a young age?
AF: I had been having some difficulties because our junior high school closed so we had to stay in elementary for 1st through 7th grades. My physical education teacher in 7th grade is the one who encouraged me to go out for track. They did a lot of running activities and she told me to go to the local high school and talk to her brother-in-law, who was Bill Lewis. So I talked to him about joining the track club and then I started running.
JT: How did your first meet go?
AF: So the first meet I ever ran, I ran the 800. I had never run 800, that's twice around the track, it's a mid-distance, almost even a sprint now. I came in second to last, and he [Bill Lewis] wanted to see if I had any endurance or what I had and I actually sprinted the last 100 meters. And he said 'yeah you're definitely a sprinter' so after that, all I did was run the 100, 200 and 400.
JT: As far as this season goes at Penn State Brandywine, what changes do you need to make now that you're head coach of both men's and women's track and field as well as cross country?
AF: I'm in the process of hiring an assistant cross country coach who will follow me into track and field. That's one major change, but track and field itself has multiple events so it's harder to be a head track and field coach than it would be cross country. With cross country, there's two races and you're finished for the day. It's really not that much of a switch for me going into cross country; it's all distance, but it's the same amount of preparation.
JT: Did you have the opportunity to recruit any runners during the off-season?
AF: I did; we were able to recruit six men. One of them is actually a thrower and he'll also run cross country. The one female we recruited is a mid-distance runner. The interest was down a little bit last year because we were walking in the door having to be the program itself. In the off-season this year, I was at indoor meets, meeting with local coaches and they kind of send me in the right direction in terms of athletes who were above average academically and who were above average in track and field and cross country who had not yet chosen a school. I was able to recruit from there.
JT: How is the team preparing for the upcoming season and what do you expect from your returning players?
AF: Most of them run at local meets, like the Hershey meet and the distance open meets. They prepare by putting in miles before the actual season begins. I expect the returning players to be leaders and to bring the team along and let them know the expectations I have. I will put them in positions of leadership, whether it's leading warm-ups or making sure they have the list of students who are taking the bus for Saturday. I'll give them activities like that to complete.
JT: What is your overall goal for next year?
AF: For cross country, my overall goal is to qualify more student athletes for the national meet in Virginia Beach. Last year we took two. This year, I'd like to double or even triple that number. For track and field, I would like to see one or two of our relay teams participate in Penn Relays this year, which is the biggest relay carnival in the world. You'll have teams from all over the world come to the University of Pennsylvania for this event. It's almost a preview of the world games. It's the 108th running this year of the Penn Relays.