Allen Community College cross country and track coach Vince DeGrado doesn’t mince words when discussing what he looks for in his incoming recruits.
That characteristic drew him to add a pair of local standouts to his 2017 recruiting class with Iola’s Megan Klubek and Humboldt’s Joe Kline.
“If you aren’t willing to work your (butt) off, then this program isn’t for you,” DeGrado said. “I am up front about it and say that to every recruit. They are just tough kids and love to run.”
DeGrado cited an example of each student’s toughness.
For Klubek, it wasn’t even when she was competing. Instead, it was during the winter when DeGrado saw Klubek running despite the cross country season being over. It was then that he knew he wanted her to be a Red Devil.
“I saw her running in December when it was 10 or 15 degrees outside,” DeGrado said. “She was running outside by herself and I was like ‘She can run for me.’ I recognized her from the paper and if she is willing to run on her own in the cold, she can run for me.”
DeGrado’s interest in Kline extends to last season when Kline also displayed his toughness and competitiveness by diving across the finish line to try and win a race.
Kline landed awkwardly and broke his arm, but came back two weeks quicker than projected and was able to take third in the state in the 1600-meter run despite the injury.
“What stood out to me was that during his junior year, he broke his arm finishing a race,” DeGrado said. “My first thought was, ‘That is what I’m talking about.’”
DeGrado urges that both Kline and Klubek may not rise to stardom right away, because next season’s Red Devil squad will be stacked with returning All-Americans again, but he loves to develop athletes that are willing to put in the work and he sees these two as athletes that will work.
“Junior college is about developing kids,” DeGrado said. “I look for kids that are developmental kids that can develop fast. We are a Division-I-style program. Our kids are signing in the SEC and Big 12. That is the environment we have created… Running isn’t like basketball or something like that. It is almost more about the will than the talent. It you can’t guard someone in basketball, you won’t be good. But if you grind, you can become a very good runner.”
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