By Evan Manning
Tim Uuksulainen (pronounced ooks-ul-ayn-in) approached the Nipissing athletic department over a decade ago. His mission? To build a cross-country program from the ground up.
He succeeded then, and now he’ll try to replicate that success. Uuksulainen is the man tasked with coaching Ryerson’s first ever cross-country team.
“I approached [Ryerson] about starting a team after sort of hearing their athletic program was taking off,” said Uuksulainen.
With the season approaching quickly (the first team race is in two weeks), Uuksulainen has a lot on his plate. It helps that he has a long list of experience. He has coached for nearly seven years at Nipissing, as well as multiple other cross-country and track and field clubs. Uuksulainen carries a level of certainty in his voice, and has high expectations for the Rams inaugural team.
“We have a pretty decent team I think. So far I’m pretty optimistic,” he said. “Based on the running times I’ve seen from our athletes, I’d say we’ll be in the mix with most of the other OUA teams in our conference.”
Despite his confidence, Uuksulainen is also aware that there must be patience with the team.
“We’ll have a really great idea of where the team is going once we have a couple of races under our belts,” he said.
Uuksulainen’s runners have already been on a training program that he sent out over the summer.
At 65 years old, Uuksulainen has been running competitively for 47 years and hopes to run with the team consistenly. The coaching gene seems to be in his blood. Uuksulainen’s cousin has coached six Olympic medalists.
Uuksulainen will not be completely alone in building the team. Assistant coach Mike Dion — who has previous coaching experience at York University — will join him. He says there’s plenty of room for improvement in the coming years, especially once he and Dion are given the opportunity to begin recruiting.
When talking about the team, Uuksulainen is quick to praise his runners.
“Great players make coaches look better,” he said. “So hopefully we’ve got two or three diamonds in the rough.”