Feb. 17, 2015
Note: This is the third in a series of five features profiling the assistant coaches of the University of Notre Dame track & field program.
Adam Beltran has been at the University of Notre Dame the longest among the current track & field coaching staff and his Fighting Irish resume falls nothing short of impressive.
Entering his eighth season, Beltran has helped oversee four All-Americans, 25 all-BIG EAST performers and NCAA East Preliminary Round qualifiers between men’s and women’s shot put, discus, hammer throw and weight throw, and for the throw events in the men’s heptathlon and decathlon and the women’s pentathlon and heptathlon. Included in the 25 are six throwing champions and 15 multi-event all-BIG EAST performers.
And although he is the least talkative amongst the staff, he connects one-on-one with his athletes to help them succeed.
“The thing with track & field, even though there is a team score, it’s still pretty individual,” Beltran said. “That’s the thing I like about it most, that you know, you’re coaching one person, basically. So you spend time getting to know that person, what makes them tick, what inspires them, and you go from there. So you end up coaching a personality.”
Connecting individually like that has helped Fighting Irish throwers maximize their potential.
Take for instance, two throwers Beltran identifies as his best standouts. Irish thrower Rudy Atang (’11) enrolled in Notre Dame in 2007 and asked if she could walk on to the team. A decent thrower in high school, she wasn’t up to Notre Dame’s athletic standards, but after working four years with Beltran, Atang set the school record for the shot put and qualified for the regional NCAA meet two years in a row.
Atang’s record was broken by current All-American standout Emily Morris, who as a junior last season placed in the top 10 in both the ACC Indoor Championships and NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Neither athlete was recruited by power conferences and both have excelled in their event, but the two personalities couldn’t be more different. That distinction required differing coaching styles from Beltran, allowing him to customize his approach.
“With Emily, she’s a very happy, go-lucky person, so she does well with supportive [coaching] and focusing on what she does well, whereas Rudy would respond to a little more harshness,” Beltran said. “Some athletes just respond to being yelled at. It’s about finding out which athlete responds to what.”
Beltran’s initial goal was to be a teacher and coach at the high school level, but when he started coaching at the college level while in graduate school, the Austin, Texas, native fell in love with it. He forewent the high school route and stayed in the college arena.
“What I liked about [college athletics] is you come to school and train year-round,” he said. “I like the fact that I can take the time to get to know my athletes. It’s more of a personal coaching, one-on-one type of thing.”
Beltran first served as an assistant coach at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, his alma mater. He worked with throwers and coached athletes to Mid-Continent Conference titles in the shot put and the javelin. Nine of his athletes went on to break school track & field records under his watch.
Prior to joining the Notre Dame staff, Beltran was on the track & field staff at Saint Francis University in central Pennsylvania, where he worked with the Red Flash throwers and oversaw the program’s recruiting efforts. During his tenure, 20 Saint Francis student-athletes won Northeast Conference (NEC) titles in the men’s and women’s weight throw, javelin, hammer throw, discus and women’s shot put. He also watched 17 Red Flash throwing records fall in the men’s and women’s indoor shot put, discus, javelin, women’s outdoor shot put and the men’s hammer and weight throws.
In 2007, Beltran pursued an opening at Notre Dame, and when former head coach Joe Piane retired last year, new head coach Alan Turner kept him.
“[Beltran] is a great coach, a great person who develops the talent that he has,” Turner said. “He’s coached All-Americans before. He gets what I’m trying to do, on the same page. He’s fun, easy to work with and he inspires the kids. He’s definitely someone I wanted to retain on staff and I’m lucky he decided to stay.”
Along with his coaching duties, Beltran recruits new Irish throwers.
Beltran explained that there is a national list that keeps the records of the top throws by high school athletes across the nation. He sends a letter to every student-athlete who is in the top 100. Once he gets responses, he identifies the best recruits based on those who best fit Notre Dame’s athletic and academic profile.
“Then we try to pay a lot of attention to that group call every one to two weeks, a lot of email contact, sending mailings, bringing them in for official visits, developing a relationship with the kid,” Beltran said.
Beltran is happy with his throwers so far this season. Morris has already broken the school indoor shot put record with a 16.03-meter throw on December 5 at the Blue & Gold Invitational. At the Meyo Invitational, three throwers set their personal bests, and Beltran believes it will be even better now that the team is approaching the Atlantic Coast Conference Indoor Championships, February 26-28.
“My goal is to keep breaking records,” Beltran said, “pushing the school records up, qualifying for the nationals and scoring at the national met.”
By Staci Gasser