Purdue finished the track season with 11 All-Americans and a 20th-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
But that’s not enough for head coach Lonnie Greene and company. Greene, who’s turned around what was a considered to be a down program in years past, is focused on constant improvement despite already turning Purdue into a power in the Big Ten in just two years.
“We can’t be pleased, and that’s the key. We have to keep working,” Greene said. “If there’s one thing I will keep preaching – not just to my (athletes), coaches or recruits – it’s that you have to keep working and improving.”
Nobody saw Purdue’s rise coming in 2015, not even the announcers.
At the NCAA Championships this past weekend, the women’s 4x400 relay team took fourth place overall. During a stretch of the race where they were in second place, the PA announcer verbally stumbled when he said Purdue was near the front of the pack. He read Purdue’s name incredulously and then hesitated before moving on.
Greene said the moment made him both happy and frustrated.
“They didn’t expect anything from us, and it showed the respect that they’ve given the program over the years,” Greene said.
Greene’s presence has been the driving force in reshaping Purdue’s program. Jones said track and field athletes were lackadaisical when she arrived and people weren’t motivated to perform.
Greene changed all of that.
“(The program) actually began to turn around my sophomore year,” Jones said. “Greene brought a motto of, ‘Eat what you catch.’ You have to earn everything that you want. That definitely has people working a lot harder.”
Jones said Greene’s words led to success, which has also helped motivate people to improve.
Jones said, “Also, you start to get good. Winning feels great. So when people feel people start to say, ‘This is what you need to do to win,’ and you win, then you believe in it and you want to keep getting that feeling.”
Greene’s teaching has led to the cultivation of multiple leaders.
“We have a good set of leaders on the team who are willing to take underclassmen under their wing because the first year is always a struggle,” Jones said. “We also have a great leader in Coach Greene who makes sure everybody is always focused, and we can have fun, but it’s also a time to do hard work. I don’t think we had that balance before (Coach Green). It was more of an extracurricular activity than it was our sport.”
Greene said he hopes to have a Top 10 team next season, and the year after that he believes the Boilermakers should be vying for Big Ten and NCAA championships.
When asked if these goals were realistic, Greene simply replied, “Yes it is. It absolutely is.”