By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Back in the day, when he was a student-athlete in Hermann, Missouri at Hermann High School, Jed Leeper was a multi-sport athlete that competed a bit in Track and Field with the 300 Hurdles, 110 Hurdles, High Jump and the Relays back in his High School days for the Bearcats.
And though he went to NCAA Division-II University of Central Missouri as a Linebacker for the Mules before stepping into the world of coaching football (which he still does as a JV head coach at South Salem after coaching freshman football a few years ago), being at the helm of the Saxon Track and Field program this season brings back a few memories of his glory days in the Midwest.
“It brings back a lot of memories, I ran Track in high School and you kind of forget all the pieces and the parts and the different things going on. I don’t know it’s a lot going on so, unlike football when you have some control in what we do and when,” Leeper describes coaching the sport to football. “Track you have really have to depend on the kids to be where they need to be and just encourage them to be ready and take on their best and try to PR.”
Having came over from coaching football Central Linn this past fall as the Cobras Head Coach after two seasons at Stayton as a assistant coach following his first stint at South Salem as coach of the Saxon Freshman team. Leeper pointed out, as the 4×100 relay race went on at Sprague High School, that some of the members of his Track team that are seniors now, were freshman the last time he was at South.
And though the seasoned football coach is trying to make the transition into Track and Field as well while knocking off the cobwebs from his days in his athlete’s shoes, Leeper has a lot of help from his assistant coaches to help him out in making the transition with the variation of experience that his athlete’s have in the sport from the very experienced to the inexperienced.
“You got to make sure you cater to each athlete depending where they’re athletically and that’s a little differently than what you will do on a football field or a basketball court but you also try to surround yourself with coaches that have been doing Track and Field for a long time and lean on them,” said Leeper as he tries to help the student-athletes around him become the best that they could be.
“I’m not afraid to ask them questions and just say, ‘I just don’t know’. But I do do a lot of studying, I lean on other coaches that are my friends who are also Head Coaches in Track and what they do and all that good stuff. So it’s been a lot less stress on myself, I freak out a little bit at times, but honestly its’ going really well.”
With coaches that are there to lend some knowledge and help the rookie coach, Leeper has a fountain of experience around him to learn from. Coaches like Cross Country and Distance coach in Alisha Murdoch, who was the former Head Coach of the program before Leeper. The well-known Dave Johnson the Olympian. Leeper said that ‘he knows everything’ with a smile dating back to Johnson’s Decathlete days.
Leeper also has former Stayton Coach Tyson Gilmour on staff along with Ryan Link-Cole , as throws coach and is a techincal guy said Leeper. Jake Turner’s the sprints coach and was a sprinter back in the day himself as Leeper mentions about Turner’s focus on the fundamentals in his particular athlete’s as South Salem has 130 kids who came out this season as Leeper learns how the sport has changed and how to coach it with the help around him.
“If your a coach, you could coach any sport. It takes some more studying and trying to figure out how it changed or what things that could be better for kids and wherever they are in their development,” said Leeper.