On the right track

Kimberly “Kim” Spence’s love for track and field actually started on the softball diamond, where her favorite part of the game was stealing bases. That love for running developed into an obsession with track in middle school that was so intense that the New Hampshire native created hurdles out of tree branches, buckets, sawhorses and anything else she could get her hands on to practice.

Her passion for the sport powered her through Wheaton as a student-athlete and now fuels her as the head coach of the track and field and cross country teams, which have both enjoyed successful seasons under her guidance.

During the 2016 track and field season, the women’s team had three individuals and the 4×100-meter relay team qualify to compete at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Another runner qualified for the women’s indoor championships. The Lyons also had eight all-conference performances at the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Championships, which included a Rookie of the Year nod for Cathryn MacGregor ’19 after her performance in the javelin.

In her second season as head cross country coach, Spence guided the men’s squad to their highest finish at the NEWMAC Championships since 2004 (fourth overall) and the women’s team to their highest placement since 2008 (third overall). Two student-athletes on the women’s team went on to earn NEWMAC All-Conference accolades for their performances at the conference meet, the most for the women’s team since 2008.

Spence joined the athletics staff right after graduating from Wheaton in 2004, serving as an assistant cross country coach for nine seasons before taking over as head coach in 2013. She then became head track and field coach in 2015.

“Kim had an immediate impact when she took over as our head cross country coach in 2013, and I was excited to see the enthusiasm she had to take over the track and field program as well,” said Director of Athletics and Recreation John Sutyak ’00.”She has the drive and determination to get our programs back to being a national championship contender, while also making sure our student-athletes are high achievers in the classroom and on campus.”

As a student-athlete herself, Spence was a four-year member of the indoor and outdoor track and field teams, and a cross country runner her senior year, and won many honors.

“Being a part of those teams was such an amazing experience,” she said. “Some of my best memories at Wheaton are due to my teammates. I was surrounded by very disciplined women, all of whom I looked up to and still do. Both my teammates and coaches in college created a culture of feeling like we were invincible when we walked on the track.”

Spence was equally outstanding in her academic studies. The Balfour Scholar graduated magna cum laude with a major in American history and minors in art history and studio art. “I had really great professors, including professors Alex Bloom and Andy Howard, who went above and beyond their roles as professors. They inspired me to want to teach, which is what I did after college.”

She taught sixth grade world geography at Norton Middle School from 2007 to 2013, while coaching part time at both Wheaton and Mansfield High School.

As a coach today, she puts all of her experiences into practice, aiming to inspire team support, competitiveness and discipline.

“I want to help athletes believe in themselves so they are able to accomplish their goals and compete at their highest level like my coaches did for me and my teammates. I also want our student-athletes to have the same great experiences at Wheaton that I had.”

Recent graduate Georgia Crane ’16, who was a member of the cross country team, indicates that Spence is right on track: “Coach Spence is the very reason I am the athlete I am today. I could always count on her for a pep talk and I could confide in her. She believed in me more than I believed in myself, and was there to push me and make sure I was able to succeed.”

Kristian Martin