New Cross Country Coach: Uros Kogal
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With a personal best of 210 centimeters (6 feet 9 inches) in high jump, 750 centimeters (24 feet 6 inches) in long jump and 11 years on the Slovenian track and field national team, Uroš Kogal, 39 years old from Maribor, Slovenia, is the new cross-country and conditioning coach for the Eagles of Sierra Nevada College.
Athletic director Branko Zagar has been expanding the athletic department in the last couple of years, including soccer, lacrosse, and cross country. Kogal will coach the men’s and women’s Cross Country teams, but Kogal’s job at SNC doesn’t end there. “I come from track and field, but in the last years I was training more professional skiers, soccer players, and tennis players,” said Kogal. Among them, he trained Klemen Kosi, Olympic Slovenian skier, 12th in 2013 World Ski championship; tennis players Polona Hercog and Tadeja Majeric, ranked top 100 on WTA (Women’s Tennis Association); Maribor soccer team, when the team was in the UEFA Champions League for the first time.
His experience makes Kogal a very multifaceted figure for SNC’s athletic department and all its teams, for which conditioning is the number one prerequisite to a quality performance at competitions.
“Through time I’ll hopefully be able to do a lot for all of the teams that need help. With the ski team we are already working together, trying to coordinate our training schedule,” said Kogal.
Junior Mihaela Kosi, SNC ski team member and Klemen’s sister, also from Maribor, is looking forward to working again with Kogal.
“Every team can benefit by working with him because his knowledge spectrum is so wide that can contribute to all of us. He’s also a very motivated and positive person, and from my personal experience I made huge progress in my skiing career since I started working with him,” said Kosi, who trained with him prior to her arrival to SNC.
Kogal’s love for sports started at a young age, when he was a skier and a basketball player. “Then I went to the sport gymnasium in high school so I was exposed to track and field. I was national champion in high jump, and long jump. When I was the captain we qualified for the first time in the European League of decathlon, with all the best countries, in 2003. This was Slovenia’s best achievement in decathlon,” said Kogal. Active until 2010, his career was characterized by an international exposure where he learned a lot about technique and training practices from the best schools of Europe and later America.
He was a member of the Italian track and field team Prosport Firenze for two years. “The most important thing was to train with a good partner, who at that time was William Frullani, the best decathlon athlete in Italy.” Kogal also spent a lot of time training in Formia, Italy, a famous hub for track and field pros who trained together in the Italian facilities specially during winter, when the weather in northern Europe isn’t as nice.
“All the best track and field athletes were there with their team: the unbeatable Czechs, the Germans, the Italians. There were Olympians, world record holders, incredible coaches, and I was able to learn a lot,” said Kogal. He also spent time in the United States, mainly in Florida and noticed the differences with the European school.
“I knew everything that was out there in Europe, so I wanted to learn from the Americans. I was in a training camp with Alison Felix,” American track and field sprinter, 2002 Olympic champion at 200 meters: “She’s the queen for me,” said Kogal. According to him, the European school is much more structured with a stronger focus on technique, but “a little bit of everything wouldn’t hurt anybody,” said Kogal.
The way he talks about his career and his projects at SNC leave no doubt about the strong passion for sports that motivates Kogal. His immediate focus is on the cross country team, which is still in the recruiting phase, especially on the men’s side.
“The goal is to go to nationals with this team next year. I am putting my name on this so that people will join me for what I did back in Europe,” said Kogal, who already started training with the cross country team.
“I have a great feeling about the season and the upcoming year. Uros’ has given us great advice on perfecting our running technique and modified our practices to our best individual abilities. So far he’s been a positive and encouraging coach who is a great addition to the athletic department. I really couldn’t be happier with the season,” said Junior Rachel Ashley, of the cross country team.