Wayne State's athletic department has a history of coaches sticking around. Grant Lofdahl – one of the newest coaches to start at WSU – is looking long term too.
"That's about the timeline I'm hoping, in the next three to five years that we can make that [beating Grand Valley for a GLIAC title] happen," said Lofdahl when talking about the Grand Valley/Wayne State rivalry.
Ironically enough, Lofdahl is a former Laker. Getting his bachelor's degree from Grand Valley State University in history. To be coaching against his alma mater is nothing new to him, but with his move to Wayne, it makes things exciting.
"I think, at Wayne State, this is sort of the first opportunity that I've had to potentially challenge Grand Valley down the road," he added. "Nobody has been able to challenge them [on the women's side] for a really long time, so we want to be the team that does that and it's a really good challenge for us."
Lofdahl started his collegiate coaching career at Lake Superior State University and then moved to former GLIAC member Lake Erie College in Ohio but is happy to be back in Michigan.
"A friend tipped me off about the job opening here so I called and then applied, I had a good two years in Ohio with Lake Erie but I was hoping to eventually come back to Michigan," explained Lofdahl. "I knew Wayne State had a strong tradition in cross country and the track program was newer but had a lot of potential there."
As an athlete, Lofdahl's favorite distance was the 10k, attributing his love for the distance with his work ethic.
"People think I'm weird for that because its 25 laps around the track, but I have no speed and the longer distance that you run a lot of times training and work ethic and dedication can trump natural ability … at least that was my experience," he commented. "I felt like I didn't have as much talent as a lot of the people I was competing with, but I wanted to work really hard and put a lot of miles in."
His start in cross country and running started in middle school from a sports-related, mini-course unit at the end of his school day.
"I picked cross country, didn't really know was it was but I think I ended up in 12th place a few times out of 100 or so kids in the class," said Lofdahl. "For me, 12th place was pretty good."
Initially, he was intimidated by the idea of long runs but by his sophomore year of high school he was "completely bit by the running bug."
"I've been living that kind of lifestyle ever since," he added.
His path through college to coaching was interesting and his BA in history proves that coaching definitely wasn't the original goal.
"I wasn't smart enough to figure out what I wanted to do with my life when I was in college and when I look back and think about it I should've figured it out a long time ago," said Lofdahl. "I am nowhere near talented enough to be a professional runner, so coaching is what I should've focused on from the beginning."
Remembering his start as a young coach, Lofdahl was intimidated by the things you have to do to get started in the coaching profession.
"Just getting your foot in the door and getting the experience can be daunting for a lot of people," he said. "If you're willing to put in lots of time and effort and not expect a huge return on it right away … anybody can have success in the coaching profession."
Lofdahl's path to coaching was "different than a lot of people" starting out. He had helped his high school out during the gap year he took before going to college but then without eligibility to compete in his last year at GVSU, his friend had urged Lofdahl to help his younger brother out.
"I ended up at Wyoming Park High School – it doesn't exist anymore – but they brought me onboard and I was obsessed with how much fun it is to work with the kids," he said. "At the end of the spring, we found out that the cross-country coach was resigning."
After a year of co-coaching with the track coach, Lofdahl took over as head cross country coach for Wyoming Park.
So far, Lofdahl has enjoyed his time in Detroit and getting used to campus while coaching the Warrior squads.
"I've never really lived and worked in a big city, it's been cool," he added. "The staff and people here at Wayne State, the mentality and positivity, people help each other."