Neosho County Community College has hired a new cross-country and track coach.
In a meeting just before Christmas break, NCCC’s Board of Trustees approved the hiring of Trey Bruton as the new cross-country and track coach. His duties started Jan. 1. Former coach Noe Hernandez’ resignation was accepted at the same meeting.
Bruton, 29, said he looks forward to coaching NCCC’s student-athletes in official competitions this spring.
“I’m extremely excited. It brings me back to campus,” Bruton said. “I grew up in northeast Kansas. ... The program and the institution has a lot of good things going for it, at least at the junior college level. Obviously I was in the junior college level before, and we’ve got a lot of opportunities here. It’s one of those things we are kind of rebuilding some things, but trying to rebuild something special here moving forward and I think we have an opportunity to do that.”
Bruton knows that there are steps to doing so. One of his major goals is to increase the overall numbers for the cross-country and track teams. Cross country, in particular, didn’t have a full team last fall. And a perfect scenario for track would be to have athletes compete in each event.
The year 2021, so far, has been an extension of 2020 – a year in which COVID-19 took over. Bruton said it will be a challenge to recruit in this climate. Still, he wants to get the numbers to the 50s and 60s; right now, there are close to 30 student-athletes ready to compete this spring.
From a competitive standpoint, Bruton wishes the team to have success in the KJCCC. Just last cross-country season, freshmen Kaelynn Gonzalez, Desiree Guerra, and Laura Juarez advanced to the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference/Region VI Cross-Country Championships at Butler Community College on Oct. 30. The top athlete was Gonzalez, running 21:13 and placing 31st out of 73 runners in the 5K; Guerra ran a 21:27 and cemented 33rd place; and Juarez finished with a 22:38 and placed 48th.
But Bruton isn’t only focused on the athletic part of it.
“(I want to) change lives as well – that’s a big part for me in terms of athletes,” Bruton said. “We’re not here just for cross country and track, I want to help them be better in life and everything as well, too.”
NCCC Athletic Director Riann Mullis said the new coach has many attributes.
“He is going to bring organization, leadership, enthusiasm and effective communication to our track and field program,” Mullis said on NCCC’s website.
Bruton, who graduated from Jefferson West High School in 2010, ran cross country at Winfield’s Southwestern College under NAIA Hall of Fame Coach Jim Helmer before he graduated in 2014. Bruton competed in the 600- and 800-meter events, the 10K and the marathon. A six-time NAIA National Qualifier for cross country and track and field, he was a part of a program that won 32 straight cross-country and 29 track and field conference titles on the men’s side. The Meriden native coached the cross-country team and was an adjunct professor at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill. He went on to attend Western Illinois for graduate school, majoring in physics, while volunteering as an assistant for the cross-country and track teams; he graduated in 2016. Studying physics helped Bruton, as he was able to apply those concepts to the mid-distance, high jump and pole vault events while there.
At Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa, Bruton was the head coach of the cross-country and track teams, leading the program to breaking more than half of the school records, while coaching some All-Americans the last three years.
NCCC’s athletes have already returned to campus, but because of COVID-19, there isn’t an official start date for competitions. Bruton, though, said the start date will likely be around Jan. 23, and that the conference is trying to schedule meets at Pittsburg State on Jan. 31 and Feb. 14.
“I’m excited for the opportunity, and I appreciate the board and Riann and President (Brian) Inbody having faith in me,” Bruton said. “I’m excited to get things going here.”