After 33 years as head coach of the Weber State University women’s track and field team, Coach Jim Blaisdell is calling it quits.
“My time at Weber State has been special,” Blaisdell said. “I’m proud of how this program has grown.”
After a storied career at WSU that saw the team produce 18 Big Sky Conference titles and 29 All-American athletes, Blaisdell leaves behind not only a winning history, but a career spent helping student athletes reach their full potential. With over 1,000 different student athletes under his tutelage, that’s something to talk about.
“My philosophy was to recruit the local girls, from in state, and to then help them develop,” Blaisdell said when asked what he hoped his legacy would be. “I wanted to help the kids, and I’m proud of that.”
On Wednesday, July 16, the WSU athletic department in conjunction with Weber State President Charles A. Wight, held an open house to commemorate the coach’s career. The public was invited to attend, and many former students, as well as a few from his past, attended the gathering.
“Though I haven’t had much time with him, Coach Blaisdell has left a winning tradition that can’t be matched, one that we hope to build on,” Wight said.
With the retirement of Blaisdell, a new head coach has been chosen and President Wight expressed his optimism about the program’s future.
“We have a great abundance of wonderful coaches for both the track and cross country teams,” Wight said. “Under their guidance the two teams should look to be very prosperous in this upcoming season.”
Last season, the Wildcat women’s track and field team had an outstanding year. As a team, they went to the Big Sky Championship meet and placed seventh, with many of the athletes both breaking school records as well as qualifying for the national championship meet. Of the many female athletes, 22 of them received academic All-Conference honors, and senior Tiffany Hellstrom earned All-American honors.
To honor the coach, both current and former students came together to have a surprise team meeting and farewell party. Students from as far back as the 80s came with their families in tow to pay homage and respect to the legacy that Blaisdell has left.
“It was a very special occasion,” Blaisdell said. “Many came back with their four or five kids and would tell me how much their time at Weber meant to them because of track.”
One of those former students, Heidi Pugmire, was at the open house and spoke fondly of her time as an athlete for Blaisdell.
“I remember how he was always positive,” Pugmire said. “Whenever we didn’t race well or we wouldn’t perform well, he would encourage us to improve, to get better. With the track culture it was hard to think like a team. But (Coach Blaisdell) would always remind us that ‘If we wanted to win the Big Sky Championship, we had to do it as a team.'”
With the positive encouragement to succeed as a team, Blaisdell also saw beyond winning.
“He had this ability to see the potential in others,” Pugmire said. “He may not have recruited the fastest runners, but by recruiting those that he did, he was able to help them grow and develop into winning athletes.”
Of the many things that Blaisdell did in his tenure at WSU, that part of his legacy stands out the most. As over 1,000 students can attest, Blaisdell helped them all live up to their full potential, even though they weren’t initially star athletes.
“This has been a really, really special experience for me,” Blaisdell said. “I didn’t go for the foreign kids, or the stellar athletes, I went with the simple kids and helped them develop and be great. That is something I will always be proud of.”