Gonzalez turns page

Martin Gonzalez wears a lot of hats.

Gonzalez is the men's cross country coach at Concordia University … and the women's cross country coach.

He's also the men's track and field coach … and the women's track and field coach … and the track coach for both the men and women during the indoor season.

In his 11 years at the school, Gonzalez has coached 126 NAIA All-Americans and 11 individual national champions, coached the 2000 women's cross country team to the school's first-ever NAIA championship in any sport, and guided the 2005 and '06 cross country teams to gender-combined national titles.

But once the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships are completed on May 28 in Marion, Indiana, Gonzalez will throw his hats – all of them – into the ring.

Gonzalez, 41, will resign all his posts from the school, even though he has no new job lined up. He calls his student-athletes at Concordia his "second family," but it turns out his "first family" needs him now.

"My mom is older, I have a 1-year-old baby and everything in between," Gonzalez said. "I'm extremely busy from August (the start of cross country season) to May (the end of track season) every year. Sometimes I felt I was just spread very thin. My mom is getting older and she's living with me and my family. My family obligations are very important."

Gonzalez's household includes mom Maria de Jesus, wife Norma, 15-year-old Alexis, 7-year-old Martin Jesus and 1-year-old Annalia. Now, they get more of "Coach Gonzalez."

Leaving Concordia, however, is not easy for Gonzalez. He's appreciative of the opportunity Concordia gave him after he graduated from Adams State in Colorado with bachelors and masters degrees.

"There's some sadness, of course," Gonzalez said. "For 11 years, it's been my home away from home.

"To start off your coaching career in a Christian environment is huge, especially for a believer. I've been able to work in an environment where I get to go to chapel, and where I get to give God the glory is a special thing and not many places offer that."

Concordia will begin a national search for a replacement after the NAIA track and field national championships. In the meantime, the school has nothing but positive things to say about its popular outgoing coach.

"How does one replace a Martin Gonzalez? I suppose we don't," said Gary McDaniel, Ed.D., Executive Vice President for Student Enrollment Services at Concordia. "It has been a joy watching Coach Gonzalez mentor student-athletes over the past 11 years. His quest for excellence while winning national or conference championships has been an inspiration to our entire coaching staff.

"What I will miss most about Martin is his humble, caring spirit. Student-athletes were not just recruits, they were family."

Gonzalez's decision might have been influenced some by the loss of assistant track coach Len Blutreich, who passed away in December of 2009 after a bout with cancer.

Blutreich, a legendary throwing mentor who himself coached 21 NAIA All-Americans, assisted Gonzalez through Gonzalez's first 10 years.

"I remember coach Blu all the time," Gonzalez said. "I remember him especially when I'm out here on the track and I see the shot put arena, the javelin and the discus. This was his design.

"He never let up on the passion of coaching and his philosophy. He was an old-school coach and it worked. Even today, we're still living out some of his success. His presence is always here, and I can say that I will be taking that with me wherever I go."

Gonzalez said he has enjoyed his entire experience at Concordia, but it's hard to top the very beginning, when the women won NAIA cross country national title in 2000.

"That was like, 'Wow,' we made history," Gonzalez said. The first NAIA title for our school and the first cross country title for (an NAIA school) on the west coast. And of course, I'll always remember the athletes, how they made it happen, how they weren't afraid to get out of their comfort zone. There's nothing like people getting together and reaching their goal."

Gonzalez's goals are much simpler now, to take care of his family and find a new coaching job, and he said he's open to coaching at the high school level.

"I'm excited to contribute to whoever really wants me, who believes in my passion and my philosophy," Gonzalez said. "The Christian lifestyle will follow me wherever I go. I don't have a preference of Christian or public (school). I'll always be of service anywhere I go."

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