Five Minutes with Karen Lutzke, Head Track and Field and Cross Country Coach

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Karen Lutzke serves as head coach for the men’s and women’s track and field and cross country teams. Utilizing nearly 30 years of experience as a coach and pulling from an impressive career as a runner herself, Coach Lutzke has helped numerous student-athletes reach All-American honors and achieve many other feats. Further, her leadership skills serve as an example to many Comets, and the relationships Coach Lutzke builds with students go far beyond their time on campus. Many athletes have even given her a beloved nickname rather than a formal title, Momma Lutzke.

Why do you love OC?

I enjoy helping individuals achieve their goals. It is rewarding as a coach to see people achieve success on all levels. We always say that a victory is doing the best that you can. Only one person can win the race, but each person can win their own race by giving 100 percent.

Where does your passion for coaching stem from?

I love track and field and cross country and want others to realize that if you work hard, you can be successful in your own right. Each student brings a unique personality and I enjoy the challenge of figuring out what makes each athlete successful. There is not one magic formula for everyone. Every person is different and we stress that hard work pays off.

What are your responsibilities as the head track and field and cross country coach?

As head coach of both programs, my responsibility is to help guide each and every athlete to be the best version of themselves they can be. There is more that coaches do than just coach (which is the best part of the day). My biggest responsibility is for my current student-athletes. I try to show each person that they are important and that we care about them as an individual first and athletes second. Life is a balancing act and we are trying to teach them they need to balance family, social, academics and athletics. Sometimes the students just need to have someone to talk to about something that is bothering them or how they did on a test, and we are needed to talk to them. Other duties include recruiting, fundraising, building alumni relationships, maintaining the budget, coordinating team travel, monitoring students’ grades, planning training for the event groups I coach, working with our assistant coaches, and anything else that comes up!

Why do you build personal relationships with students?

I feel that it is important to coach each person individually as no two people are exactly alike. What motivates one person may discourage another person. As a coach, it is important to know each athlete in order to build the trust that is necessary to compete to the best of one’s ability.

Why do you encourage students to attend OC?

We want students who are going to be a good fit for our program. We are looking for student-athletes who want to work hard and make a commitment to our team. Whether a student was a well-decorated track and field or cross country star in high school or someone who wants to see what our program is about, as long as he or she has a strong work ethic, we want to work with them. The University of Olivet has so many opportunities to offer students. For example, the opportunity to get to know your professors, which doesn’t always happen at larger schools. In addition, there are many clubs and organizations that students can be involved in along with being in athletics.

Since 2015, we have had three athletes earn All-American honors and we are proud of each of these individuals, as well as our MIAA Champions. We are also very proud of the student-athletes that may never score a point, but work hard every day to be the best they can be.

What are you most looking forward to during the outdoor track and field season?

I was really pleased with how our team competed at the MIAA Indoor Championship meet. We had so many athletes step it up and turn in outstanding performances. I was proud of how hard everyone competed. Our squad is growing and as we move into the outdoor season, we are looking forward to having some additional athletes on the team, as well as seeing our veteran athletes continue to make improvements. As always, it is about trusting the process and getting better every day.

What is the number one piece of advice you share with students?

Trust the process. Consistency is important and hard work pays off. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can always learn from the people you coach or work with every day.

What is an interesting or little known fact about yourself?

I graduated from Michigan State University and was an All-American cross country runner. After my collegiate career, I was a USA Olympic Trials qualifier in the 10,000 meter (1984 and 1988) and 5,000 meter (1984). I have coached at the collegiate level since my oldest son was born 27 years ago.  I also had the opportunity to coach my son, Greg, during his senior track season at The University of Olivet and really enjoyed it.

Visit campus and request to learn more about opportunities for track and field or cross country athletes at The University of Olivet. Contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or admissions@uolivet.edu for questions.


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