Runner to coach a smooth path

Published May 20, 2007

The decision to transition from competitor to coach was an easy one for Lou Snelling Seminole/UCF while attending graduate school at Indiana.

Following three years at Indiana pursuing a master's degree in public affairs and serving as the school's volunteer assistant cross country coach, Snelling is now in his fourth year as Stephen F. Austin University's cross country coach.

"During that experience I figured it out, " said Snelling, 29. "It was a great combination at Indiana with school and coaching. Moving into coaching was really kind of natural for me with the background I had, even though there are definitely challenges in all you do. I felt pretty prepared, though, because of my background and the time at Indiana."

Snelling's first taste of competitive track was at Seminole Middle School. He had success, liked it and decided distance running would be his specialty.

After graduating in 1995, Snelling selected UCF because he liked the setup of the team and knew some of the runners, including Seminole graduate Eric Lipham. Snelling had a strong work ethic and his results were recognized.

He was a decorated student-athlete, four-year letter winner and earned all-conference and academic all-conference honors all four years.

Since arriving at Stephen F. Austin in 2003, Snelling's cross country squads have collected four conference titles and 20 individual conference honors in cross country and track. Snelling was chosen Southland Conference cross country coach of the year four times.

"I think every coach puts their own tag on their coaching philosophy, and I know I've been influenced by Robert Chapman at Indiana, plus others, " Snelling said. "I feel my best strength is that I have a larger grasp on what the head coach job requires. Plus, I have a huge work ethic and a vision of where the program is going.

"A lot has to come together to be successful, plus there's certainly some luck involved. A team includes athletes all with different personalities and talents. You try to recruit athletes that will mesh with the rest of the team and with the coaches."

Whether it's Snelling the runner or Snelling the coach, the result is usually a success.

BASEBALL: First baseman Marc Sawyer (Canterbury) completed his college career at Yale, setting four all-time career records, including hits (230), doubles (54), at-bats (621) and putouts (1, 287). Sawyer was chosen team MVP his first three seasons and received the Paul Sortal Award his final for "maximizing his ability to the fullest."

Sawyer was a three-time all-Ivy League team member and was named Ivy League Player of the Year his junior year. As a senior, Sawyer posted 61 hits on a .394 batting average and scored a team-high 40 runs.

- Rollins starting shortstop Ryan Luker (St. Petersburg) is averaging .274 at the plate. The freshman is second on the team in doubles (11), fourth in runs (31), tied for fourth in hits (54) and fifth in RBIs (26).

- In 10 appearances, left-hander Ian Thompson (Boca Ciega) is 1-1 for Stetson. The freshman has a 9.64 ERA.

- Stetson left-hander David Burns (St. Petersburg Catholic) is 1-0 with a 5.06 ERA in 13 appearances.

- Sophomore Louis Michaelos of Belleair (Berkeley Prep/Rollins) and junior Matt Low (Countryside/Daytona Beach CC) are right-handers for Stetson.

SOFTBALL: Dani Hofer (Palm Harbor University) collected her 23rd win for LSU with a 1-0 victory over Florida in the SEC championship game. The sophomore was named tournament MVP. The right-hander was named to the first-team all-SEC squad. Hofer holds a 1.27 ERA with 234 strikeouts.

- Freshman catcher Maggie Allen (Gibbs) started 25 of the 28 games she played for Seminole CC. Against Palm Beach last month, Allen connected for a single in the fourth inning and scored to add to the 6-1 win.

- Junior Kallan Casey (Countryside/St. Petersburg College) was named to the all-SSC first team, Tampa's first since 2004. The third baseman hit .312 and recorded 21 sacrifice hits for the Spartans.

- Tampa starting first baseman Samantha Becker of Clearwater (Cambridge High/Western Kentucky) led the Spartans in RBIs (32) and doubles (12). Becker averaged .307 at the plate.

- South Florida's Kit Dunbar (Countryside/Western Kentucky) was named to the all-Big East second team. The rightfielder is third on the team in hitting (.368) and has 21 hits.

BASKETBALL: Gabe McMillen (Indian Rocks Christian) completed his career at Stetson as the all-time leader in games played with 117. The senior guard was second on the team in scoring average (10.8) and third in total rebounds (107).

- With 23 seconds remaining in Saint Anselm's final game, senior forward Greg Cummings (East Lake/West Point Prep) connected for a 3-pointer in a 77-43 loss to Bentley.

- In 30 games, Stetson's Collins Okafor (Countryside/Marshall) started 23. In a 77-61 loss to East Tennessee State, the sophomore forward recorded a season-high 14 points.

TENNIS: Freshman Nick Gallauer (St. Petersburg) posted a 4-8 singles record in the No. 5 and 6 positions and was 6-9 in doubles for Austin Peay.

News for this column may be faxed to Nancy Morgan, 445-4119; e-mailed to namorgan@tampabay.rr.com or sent to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. Please include phone number.