Mark Colligan Was a Unique Nebraska Succcess Story
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Every coach, team member and Husker fan who follows track and field considered Mark Colligan one of the most unique success stories imaginable.
He was, after all, a guy who loved Nebraska track and field so much that he made the program his career and came within a year of celebrating a 30-year anniversary until dying unexpectedly and tragically at 47 on Wednesday afternoon in Des Moines.
"When Mark was growing up in Wisner, his family would drive to our track meets in Lincoln," Nebraska Track and Field head Coach Gary Pepin said. "It was a huge deal for him to be from Nebraska. He loved Nebraska. He made it his life's work, his masterpiece. He lived what he taught, and he walked what he talked."
Perhaps Colligan gave Nebraska his best because he knew Nebraska gave him its best.
"He was really a developer of athletes. He was so innovative and a real stickler for details," Pepin said, reflecting on Colligan's death that came only hours before the athletes he coached competed in the NCAA Championships at Drake University.
"Mark didn't need superstars. He just really loved to teach and develop talent, and he worked very, very hard. He was so disciplined," Pepin said. "From everything I saw, he gave the same kind of time, effort and interest to his family. He was just a good person as well as a good coach. He followed all the rules, He did everything the right way."
Colligan and His Wife Were Both Big Eight Champions
Colligan and his wife, Jean, had three children ages 16, 13 and 11.
"That's what makes this so tough," Pepin said, fighting back obvious emotion. "He was young and had no signs of a problem. It's June, and three young kids don't have their dad around anymore. You wonder how they're going to make it through everything, but they will."
They will because Jean Colligan, the former Jean Monter, is as rock-solid as the man she married. Pepin has no doubt about that.
Only through unrelenting effort to improve every day, every month, and every year did Mark Colligan achieve his own competitive dream as a Nebraska student-athlete - a Big Eight championship performance in the 1986 outdoor meet with a throw of 63-3 ¾.
Jean Monter Colligan, an athlete Mark helped coach, was the Big Eight discus champion two years later.
"Mark coached so many champions, and Jean was one of them," Pepin said. "I remember when Mark was a young member of our coaching staff. We had a meet in Eugene, Oregon, and we couldn't afford to fly Mark out there. So he got in his car and drove to Eugene and back by himself. That's how dedicated he was. He even designed and helped build his own state-of-the-art facility for our throwers. He'd be out there throwing gravel around in the middle of the winter. His passion was unreal."
He Coached 12 National Champs, 74 Conference Winners
Such dedication explains why everyone that Colligan coached loved competing for him. Since he took over the head throws coaching position at Nebraska in 1990, his athletes won a total of 12 national championships and earned a combined 68 All-America honors. During the Big 12 era, Colligan-coached throwers won a combined 74 conference titles. Colligan also coached every hammer throw in Nebraska's all-time top 10 list.
Facts prove that whatever Colligan could conceive, his athletes would believe and then achieve.
"We had five kids wondering where their coach was in the NCAA," Pepin said. "I wanted to tell them there was a medical problem, and we would discuss it later. But somehow, news got out. The kids knew. The whole stadium at Drake knew - the NCAA and everyone else. We tried to cover with other coaches, but it just wasn't the same without Mark there."
The void was so huge and the shadow so long that Pepin, a master motivator, struggled to put it all together in a team meeting.
"I tried to tell the team and our staff as much as I could," Pepin said. "I told them that if anyone feels like they shouldn't compete or can't compete, I don't have any problems with that. Since Mark was so close to the athletes he coached, I felt it should be an individual decision. I told everyone that I would respect whatever they decided. At the same time, I told them that I'd known Mark for more than 20 years, and I guaranteed them that he would want them all to compete."
Chad Wright and Tyler Hitchler competed without their coach in the discus, and both earned All-American honors. Adam Wolkins competed in the javelin, and Morgan Wilken threw the discus. Both finished in the top 20 with the same broken hearts that Wright and Hitchler experienced.
Kostek Learned from the Prized Student He Coached
Another person who was equally stunned and still hurting Thursday was Mark Kostek, who coached Colligan in college and then hired him on the Husker staff.
"Ten days ago, Mark (Colligan), (ex-Husker) Scott Warren and I were in Eugene, planning to watch the first day of the NCAA together," Kostek said. "It was so uncharacteristic for Mark not to be exactly where he told us we would meet. I kept trying to call him. I kept trying to call Pep (Pepin) and couldn't reach him either. We could sense something wasn't right, and we were concerned."
Pepin and Kostek were Nebraska's two women's track coaches who inherited the Husker men's team when Frank Sevigne retired.
"Mark was a freshman when that happened," Kostek recalled. "When Frank decided to retire, Mark decided to give up track and field. We had a lengthy conversation, and I made sure I left the door open for him to come back whenever he wanted to come back."
The 1984 Olympic Games inspired Colligan, so he took Kostek up on that offer to return.
"We learned the rotational shot put together," Kostek said. "Mark was a tireless worker. He was very intelligent, but he also had this great, burning desire to be the best he could be. Since he was willing to put in all that extra time, I was, too, and we became very close. It was so cool when he won the Big Eight and qualified for the NCAA. He had such great passion, When his eligibility was up, I asked him to be my graduate assistant."
Colligan accepted, so, in essence, he never left the program that he fell in love with as a kid, competed for as a collegian and coached as a professional.
Website Will Provide Support for Colligan Family
"There aren't many examples like Mark Colligan anywhere else in the country," Kostek said. "He was a Husker through and through. Nebraska was absolutely his passion and his love, and he had no real desire to go anywhere else, even though he could have gone just about anywhere he wanted to go."
Kostek, a former Drake associate athletic director, designed and helped raise $15 million to refurbish the stadium that Colligan's throwers would compete in this weekend.
Now the vice president for sports and development for the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mark Kostek aches like Gary Pepin aches following the loss of someone so dear to both of them.
But true to his nature, Kostek helped come up with an idea while collaborating with Scott Warren, the Huskers' all-time best javelin thrower, and Erin Wibbels, the ex-Husker hammer thrower who now coaches throwers at Ole Miss.
Using Facebook and phones and every tactic possible to connect with ex-Husker athletes, the three are working with the Colligan family and a website designer to build a site that not only will honor this unique Husker coach, but also provide the opportunity for Big Red fans everywhere to support the family financially as well as emotionally.
As soon as that vision becomes reality, Huskers.com will share that information with Husker Nation.
Voices from Husker Nation
Our family has received a great deal of comfort in reading this article and the many kind comments. Mark was born to be a Husker. We discussed last night how the 1968 Olympics is when Mark first became interested in track and field. Little did we know at the time how far Mark would take it. His first "shot" was crafted from leftover wet concrete when we poured a new driveway. I remember playing catch with a baseball, football, and playing basketball with Mark day after day, night after night, while we were growing up. We would always be sure to run into the house in time to catch the Husker sports on TV. Then, run back outside and play more, until the early morning hours. Mark had a knack for certain things. He had a tremendous memory, especially of people. He could recite names of athletes from all around the world, despite how difficult they would be to enunciate. Mark loved working with the athletes and valued them as a whole person. He was just as concerned about their off-the-field life. Mark's biggest talent was his sense of humor. We had many family gatherings and holidays where Mark was always the center of entertainment. He could impersonate various voices and do different accents. His Scottish accent was a favorite. His Chris Farley, Down by the River, and many other impersonations are thoughts that come to my mind. There are so many good memories. Mark has a wife and three kids, and I know he loved them more than anything on this earth. And perhaps that's my greatest and happiest memory ... that he was a gentle giant loved by so many because he loved so many. We will miss you big brother. Dr. Robert Colligan, Norfolk, Nebraska
Editor's note: Mark's parents, brothers, sister and other family members have asked Huskers.com to thank everyone for being an important part of Mark's life and for sharing their thoughts. The remembrances have been a source of comfort and laughter during this difficult time. Huskers.com will continue to update this column as other comments come in.
I am so blessed that God chose for my path to cross with Coose's. He made one of the most profound impacts on my life, one that no other individual could come close to. He is the sole reason I am coaching today, and if it wasn't for him I wouldn't have met my fiancé (this seems to be a common occurrence amongst us throwers; there are quite a few happy couples in the world, thanks to Coose!) Coose had this way of knowing just what every individual athlete needed to hear/see/do, and you trusted it, no matter how ridiculous it seemed. And without question you trusted it. Here's a riddle for you: What do an office chair, a hula hoop, rubber tubing, a weight bench, golf clubs & chunks of metal pipe have in common? If you can't find the common thread, I'm not surprised. If you know the answer, you were probably a Husker Thrower. These items were valuable practice devices used on a regular basis. I mean, c'mon, how else would you come up with drills named "The Gauntlet" and "Red Bench of Death". His imagination was limitless, and undoubtedly was the secret to our throwing success. The memories I have of Coose are too numerous to share them all, but I know there are many of us out here in the coaching ranks now, both in high schools & colleges. We have probably scared and scarred some of our athletes with the craziness we take them through, all thanks to Coose. Thanks for everything, Coach.You have made me a better person just by knowing you. Jeni Steiner, thrower from 2002-2007, volunteer assistant 2007-2008, assistant track and field coach, University of North Carolina Wilmington.
At Nebraska, the throwers are a family. Most of the time we are in our own little world since we practice and lift at a different place than the rest of the track team. No matter your knowledge or scholarship level, Coach Colligan gave direct and special attention to all of his athletes. He invested his time with each athlete and gave his undivided attention at all times. He believed in us while wanting us to be better throwers and better people. He strived for our best and took nothing less. One of the best memories of Coach was when he chose nicknames for us. He called me 'Special K or K.' Whenever I would throw, he could always find something to say as a helpful suggestion. After each throw, I got into the habit of looking for him for advice. Even if I was across the field, I can still imagine him looking over at me and acting out what to do or hearing him say "way to go K!" I remember he always knew the right things to say to help me throw farther. At track meets, Coach saw me excited and sad at times, but I will never forget when he gave me hugs for congratulations or hugs along with encouraging words to brighten my day. I had the unique opportunity to travel with Coach, sometimes with just a few throwers, sometimes just us two. I remember him talking with me one-on-one, asking about my goals and desires. After ending my Nebraska career at the 2008 Olympic Trials, I remember him asking me on the flight home if I planned on throwing after college. I told him I was planning on throwing and wanted to try out for the 2012 Olympics. I will never forget when he said he would still work with me as long as I wanted to compete. I knew he still cared for me as a person and athlete beyond the field. He even attended my wedding. It was a special moment to have him and my fellow throwers there for me because they are and always will be a part of my family. Most recently, I had a chance to throw with Coach at the beginning of the 2011 track season. He waited for me to throw after I got off work. That day I had a great practice, and he was genuinely excited for my performance and me. Coach Colligan played a vital role in my athletic career, and I have him to thank for all of my accomplishments. Without Coach Colligan believing in me, I would have never become a two-time All-American or three-time Big 12 Javelin Champion along with many more accomplishments. Coach is the reason why I accomplished so much because he helped his athletes to strive for nothing but the best. All the throwers lost a family member when Coach passed away.There is no way we can replace him. He was more than a coach ... he was Coach. I cherish all the memories I will forever have with him. Thank you for the memories, Coach. Kayla Wilkinson-Colgrove "Special K", Javelin Thrower, 2003-08, Lincoln, Nebraska
Coach Colligan was that special glue that made Nebraska Track and Field a family. As so many have said, he cared about the athlete, not solely for their performance but for their character, their work ethic and their unique contributions to the team. Coach Colligan was proud that NU Track and Field was one of the few all-around teams in the nation, a team which could always count on a steady stream of points from his throwing group. He reached beyond his influence with his throwers to infuse this passion into the entire team. I remember his pre-meet speech at the 2005 Indoor National Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Rather than his familiar rousing motivational comments or humorous injection to break the tension we all felt, he simply and briefly told us all the honor it was to be associated with this team. I believe we all felt pride in being part of something bigger than ourselves, and Coach's declaration motivated us to leave it all on the track. Win or lose, we were all part of the NU Track and Field family. Thank you, Coach Colligan. We will miss you. Ashley (Selig) Chrisman, Combined Events, 2003-2007, Erie, Colorado
I came into the Husker throws program as somewhat of an outsider, being a foreign student-athlete from Israel. Not only did Coach Colligan pick me up from the airport when I first arrived on a Friday evening, but he also drove me around to show me the campus, got me settled in my dorm room and made me feel like I belonged at Nebraska. Over the years, through good times and bad, through championship wins and injuries, he was always supportive, always a friend. Whenever I would confide in him and to share my plans for the future, career aspirations or various concerns, he never failed to listen carefully and give sound advice when it was needed. Reading the other comments, it is amazing to realize that as much as Coach Colligan cared about throwing and was so dedicated to practice, he still had the big picture in mind the whole time. He knew he was helping shape young people's characters, and he took it seriously. He was not just a great throws coach, but a great person and a great educator. Coach Colligan always made it his personal business to make sure his athletes were doing well at school. Whenever they didn't, he put it at the top of his priority list to help them improve their academic performance, and whenever they did, he took pride in their achievements and celebrated their accomplishments. That, I think, is yet another reason why so many of Coach Colligan's athletes carry him with them, in their minds and souls, long after they have graduated. I know I do. Issar Yazhbin, Hammer Thrower, 2004-2008, Lincoln, Nebraska
Memories of my dear coach and "second dad," "Coose", cannot be contained in a simple paragraph. I'll try my best. I am so grateful that the Lord allowed me to be called one of his children and that I have been able to carry on the legacy of his silliness and molding of young people through coaching my own throwers! I can say with confidence that I am the woman that I am today largely because of Coose's passion, wisdom, love and literal pouring of his own life into me and us, his throwing children! I fell in love with throwing and became a coach, because of his influence in my life! I am proud to call him my friend for 15 years now and that God gave us the gift of so much time together in this track season alone! Off the top my head, here are some memories of Coose:
- The best "Chris Farley/Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker-Van-Down-by-the-RIVER" impressions ever in the middle of practice
- That mischievous sparkle of excitement in his eyes when we'd be around anything track & field
- His witty personality that was second to none even though you didn't understand the depth of his brain's train of thought most of the time
- His utter commitment to his kids and family, his candor and straightforward way of dealing with every situation
- How he'd say he was scared of women because of us and dreaded making us cry more than any other thing
- Watching the national spelling bee together on TV every outdoor NCAA's and coming up with our own comments during the action
- Whenever a horribly short throw was thrown, Coose would say in his official voice: "MARK IT!"
- His bear hugs, his brilliant mind that would invent new form for throwing and he'd call me to "test and see if it was physically possible"
- How you could never one-up him. He'd always have the last witty remark that would leave you speechless
- That he would wrestle for as long as it would take to always try to make the right decision for his athlete and Husker program
- When he picked me up and power bombed me on the high jump pit after practice one day and
- How he was unashamed to let you know that he cared about you, with all of his heart and soul
Well, that's how we loved you, Coose! May God get even more glory out of your death than He did your life, as we continue to live and carry your rich and vibrant legacy! Erin Wibbels, 1998-99-00-01, Assistant Coach, Ole Miss Track & Field, Oxford, Mississippi
Watching the javelin throwers at nationals in Des Moines on Wednesday was a disturbing experience. I knew where Coach Colligan would be standing, but he wasn't there. Adam Wolkins, my grandson, and I discussed Coach Colligan's absence after Adam made his last throw. It was the first time in Adam's career that he failed to make finals. We knew how strongly Coach Colligan felt about nationals and being there for his athletes, and we worried that something serious had happened. Coach Colligan wouldn't miss being with his athletes for anything in the world. Sadly, our worries turned out to be truths. We will all miss Coach Colligan. He was a great coach and a wonderful man. I will always remember one day at practice when Adam made a bad approach with the javelin dragging the ground. Notwithstanding, he made his best throw of the day. Coach Colligan turned to me and said: "He is a freak of nature -- no one should throw that far with that run-up". He smiled as he spoke those words. Coach Colligan was such a kind and gentle man. That's why we will always remember him. Don Wolkins, Fox Lake, Illinois
I could write a book on how much Mark affected my life and athletic career. I will start with a funny story when we were traveling to a meet out west. We were in the Denver airport for a layover at the time before cell phones, when you had to page someone. We always joked about the person saying the names and screwing them up. So Mark suggested we give them a really hard name. Miloslav Stefolovskakoski. We were in tears when the person tried to page Miloslav to our gate. Mark was the personality of the team and the inspiration of the team, so I'm sure there are more stories to follow. Rick Allen Schwieger, 1989-92, Matthews, North Carolina
I was a heptathalete at Nebraska for about two weeks. Of those two weeks, I probably spent three hours trying to learn how to throw the shot put. The coaches soon found my talents needed to stay on the high jump apron. Those three hours were really all that Coach Colligan had to invest in me, but he, of course, cared too much for that. My freshman year was rough. I went from big fish to very small fish in the blink of an eye. I went home that summer and worked my butt off. I got strong and thin and came back to still be a small fish. One day at practice "Coose" pulled me aside and told me he noticed I looked stronger and thinner. He told me good job and made sure I was healthy. I wasn't his athlete. There was no reason he had to look my way or remember my name. He did. That day I felt like I belonged to the team not just the high jump apron. I also have another little bit of knowledge collected from Coach Colligan. I will always remember him saying: "The last time is the time everyone gets hurt." I was old enough to know better and challenging another jumper to see who could jump higher over the fence. I did it once with success. The second time I squatted down and pulled my arms back for another victorious leap. Coach walked by and said you're going to hurt yourself. Knowing it all, I said: "Don't worry. I've done it before. This will be the last time." He rolled his eyes and said: "The last time is the time everyone gets hurt." I'm pretty sure that quote has kept me from a couple serious injuries. Ashlee Dickinson, 2003-06, Saint Charles, Iowa
A week ago, I attended Darin Erstad's press conference and heard him credit his wife for reminding him that he would have the same chance to influence young men's lives like Tom Osborne influenced his. Obviously, that same principle applies to assistant coaches as well. Mark Colligan influenced countless lives of young men and women while coaching the Nebraska track and field program over the last 25 years. He had a profound influence on my son, Cole, who got the opportunity of a lifetime to learn from Mark. Cole just called me to tell me how much he enjoyed reading this tribute to his late coach. It's been obvious to me that whenever Mark Colligan coaches athletes, he takes them all in. They become "kids" in his family. The reason I know that is because Cole is one of his "kids" and with Mark's passing, he lost more than a coach. He lost someone that influenced him for the rest of his life. John Ingram, Lincoln, Nebraska
I have had the distinct pleasure knowing Mark Colligan for the past 13 years as a friend, coach, mentor, and father figure. Coose, as we know him, has been nothing short of amazing to be around. Of all the people I have crossed paths with in my life so far, I have never, I repeat never, worked with a finer person than Mark Colligan. I am so thankful to have had him as my coach for six years and to coach alongside him for several years after. Mark was a very compassionate individual with high integrity: someone who embodied the spirit of selfless service. He was determined to succeed in school, life, athletics, and everything he did. Mark was faithful to everything he did and was an amazing leader (and somebody who gave the best pep talks ever!). Through the years that I have known Mark, he has done nothing but good to everyone that he has encountered. Mark never knew how to say no. He went out of his way to help anybody and everybody. Mark was truly an amazing person, and he was a true team player in the Husker Track and Field Family. He not only enjoyed helping others, but was also a role model to many. Mark was a wonderful, talented, and respected young man that was taken from us way too early. Mark was hands down the hardest working person that I have ever been around. From the countless hours out on the fairgrounds throwing, to the sheep barn with portable heaters during the winter when the Devaney Center was being renovated to his new home on the "Husker Rock", Mark would spend countless hours and long days there helping shape the future and build a dominant Husker throws squad year after year. First and foremost. academics where very important to Mark....we were "student-athletes" first, and he would work practice around our class schedules. Mark was always the first one to practice and the last one to leave. He strived to be the best and was constantly improving new coaching techniques, ideas, and drills for throwing. He had a very non-traditional approach to coaching, and he truly did everything in his power to try to one-up the other teams in the conference and in the nation. Whether it was doing drills in a gauntlet, drills with golf clubs, spinning over cement blocks or something as simple as a chair drill, he was creative and so darn good at what he did. Mark was good at making mountains out of mole hills. He could turn anybody into a great thrower. He respected everybody, and everybody respected him. I don't think there was one person that did not like Coose and not one person that did not love him. I have never heard anything negative about him. Mark loved everybody and went out of his way to make them feel accepted, encouraged, successful, held accountable, but most importantly, he helped shape people into young men and women. I can firmly say that because of my time around Mark, he has helped shape the person that I am. I feel like in this time of tragedy, the throws coaches field has really taken into this moment and are trying to preserve the memories, the stories, the "Cooseisims". Mark had a huge heart, a wonderful family that he cherished, and also a strong inner drive that helped make everybody a better person. I know I lost a great friend this week, but the memories will last forever and the Husker Nation will get by somehow. Mark was all about family and now it is family that will get us through this time. You are gone but will never be forgotten Coose! You will always be in our hearts and our minds. We love you! Leann Boerema, Husker Thrower, 2000-2004, Lincoln, Nebraska
I was an average-speed distance runner who graduated in 2005. Coach Colligan had an idea how to get more spectators to care about the 10,000 meters on the track. He would tell me his plan any chance he got. We could be on a plane, stuck in an airport, on a bus, out to eat as a team, or sitting in the stands. Each time he would tell me about his idea, he would tell it like it was the first time and like it was OUR idea. It would go something like this: "Wilson. I know how to improve the 10,000." He wouldn't leave a break for me to remind him that we had been over it already. "You know no one watches the 10,000. Distance runners don't even watch the 10,000. It will look like this. We line up 10 to 20 treadmills on the infield. The 10k guys all get on the treadmills together and get started while other events are taking place. Each guy controls every treadmill. They all go the same speed, so any speed changes affect everyone. If someone flies off, they are disqualified. When they hit six miles, they all jump off their treadmills, run to the 200 meter mark and have an all-out sprint. The crowd will go NUTS! Can you picture it? We're going to be on the cover of Track and Field News when we roll this thing out." Every time we talked about this, he would have me about in tears with his different variations and enthusiasm. He probably told every distance guy on the team for 25 years, but he always made it seem like it was our thing. In fact, in December 2010, I went to the indoor track one evening to work out with a friend, and I was thrilled because 1) Coach Colligan was there and actually remembered me and 2) He asked if I had gotten a hold of the treadmills yet! Coach Colligan was a great, caring coach, and he will be missed. Paul Wilson, 2001-03-04-05, Omaha, Nebraska
My heart broke when hearing of Coach Colligan's passing. Whenever I think of him, there is one thing that sticks out the most. There was a time when we were sitting next to each other in the bleachers at Devaney when I was a senior. Over the years we'd chat here and there, as indoors we all intermingled a bit more. That day, out of nowhere, he verbally acknowledged to my face all the hard work I'd put in over the years, and how much he felt I'd improved in that time. It was priceless, because he wasn't even my coach. I was a hurdler. There was no reason whatsoever for him to pay attention to me. That was 16 years ago, and I still carry the pride I felt from that conversation. Happily, it will never go away. I wish I could personally thank him for that. He truly cared about the athletes on the team and undoubtedly there have been countless student-athletes who have benefited for a lifetime from having had the pleasure and privilege of knowing him and being a part of his team. He was really fun, and I'll miss him a lot. Janna Hassler (Hammon) 1990 - 1995, Lincoln, Nebraska
I first met Coach Coose at Nebraska Track and Field Camp before my senior year in high school. His friendliness to all the campers was great and like the entire coaching staff, it made my decision to walk on at Nebraska an easy choice because of the family environment. Being a distance runner, I was always intimidated by throwers but I soon found in college there was no intimidation. Coach Coose and his athletes were all about the team. Coose would ask us about our training and would always be encouraging us. The event that has always stuck out in my mind happened before the start of my second year with the NU cross country team. After our run we were stretching and catching up outside the track and field office and Coose was chatting us all up. I didn't even know that he knew my name being a non-scholarship and not a top runner. Coose said to me, "Mike, you are so fit...you had to drop some weight, but man...so fit, I can't believe how fit you look." For someone who did not work with or coach me daily, it meant the world to me. That event is something I can remind myself of now as a teacher and coach. Treating people the right way ... I saw that all the time from Coose. Another great memory took place at team meetings with the Indoor Track and Field team. I cannot remember the year, but Coose and Coach Pepin (there could have been more) were nicknamed the 'Amen Corner' by a teammate for their constant encouragement, applause, shout-outs, etc, to our captains as they led the team meeting. Boy do I wish I had a video copy of Willie Hibler re-enacting how everyone was going to perform and win the Big 8's!! I was blessed during my final three semesters to work as a student assistant within the track and field office, and Coose was helpful with any question I ever asked. I loved to listen to him coach his athletes and watch how he treated them in practice and meets. I hope my athletes are able to see something similar in me. Coose was an amazing ambassador for Nebraska Track and Field, and it saddens me to see him go so soon. My thoughts and prayers are with the family. The true testament of Coose was reading that his athletes and those on the team still went out and performed at All-American levels after receiving this news. Those Huskers made me so proud, and I know Coose was cheering them on! Mike Myers, Nebraska Grad 1997 (NU XC 1992-95, NU TF 1993-95), Greensburg, Indiana
Airport drills anyone?! When I think of Coose, the first thing that comes to mind is: airport drills. Yeah, yeah...at the time what 20 years old wanted to be awake at 5 a.m., none the less be in an airport terminal practicing footwork...on a Sunday? It was a bit embarrassing to have your teammates (and strangers) watch you spin in circles for an hour or so, but it also made you want to perfect your footwork, and sort of show-off. That was the dedication that Coose had for his throwers. At any place, at any time was the 'perfect' place to practice. He always made sure we knew that 'these practices' were what made champions. I continue to spend an abnormal amount of time in airports for work and play, and every time I go to the airport I think of Coose and those amazing track and field days! I'm so thankful that Coose recruited me to go to Nebraska. He was a great coach and great friend. He always had a smile on his face and always took the time to say hi. He will be missed. Jen Cowher, 2001-03, Tempe, Arizona
That was a great and inspiring article on Coach Colligan. Having been a Nebraska track athlete myself, I know why Mark was such an inspiration to anyone. Even though my life has taken me away from track and field, I long to go back to Nebraska just to be around the team and the coaching staff. Mark was an outstanding person of the highest quality. He had qualities everyone should aspire to hold. I wish only the best for his family and will pray for them every day. Without a doubt, a ray of light extinguished far too early. Patrick Trainor, 1991-95, U.S. Naval Post-Graduate School, Monterey, California
The world will not be the same without Coach Colligan. He was a tremendous mentor of student-athletes. As a skinny 180-pound decathlete in the early '90s, Coach Coose always took the time to help me with the throws, giving me the same attention and guidance as his All-Americans. He helped me through a difficult Kansas Relays one year by coaching my attitude as much as my technique. Of course, this was after partaking the "Mother Lode" at Buffalo Bob's in Lawrence. I was fortunate to be able to spend a few minutes visiting with Coose at a track meet in Wichita earlier this spring, and his witty humor was there, as always, as we talked about Nebraska Track and Field dominating the Big Ten. Nobody bled Husker Red more than Coach Colligan, and my heart goes out to his family. He will be greatly missed. Gene Paulsen, 1992-94-95, Wichita, Kansas
From his competitive days through his many years of coaching, I felt a kinship with Mark as someone else who also truly enjoyed everything about Track & Field. Besides his obvious coaching ability, what I appreciated about Mark was that it was always easy to see the close relationship he had with his athletes. As others have commented, Mark was concerned about his athletes' lives away from practice and competition. Mark understood that while winning championships and producing big marks are great, a coach's greatest impact can be in the personal development and mentoring of young men and women. I always enjoyed visiting with Mark at meets. His unique sense of humor, astute observations and genuine nature made interacting with him always a pleasure. My prayers and thoughts are with the entire University of Nebraska Track & Field family and, of course, with Jean and their children. Ted Bulling, Director of Track & Field/Cross Country, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, Nebraska