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Brant TolsmaHead Cross Country Coach
College: New Jersey Institute of Technology ('71)
Start Date: 7/1/1986
The longest-tenured and most highly-decorated head coach in the history of Liberty Athletics, Brant Tolsma serves as the head coach of the men's and women's cross country and track & field teams. The 50-time Big South Coach of the Year was brought to Liberty in 1986 by former Flames track & field coach, Jake Matthes, to serve as the head men's track & field coach. By 1991, Tolsma had assumed each of the coaching positions he still holds today.
Tolsma shows no signs of slowing down, as he has guided Liberty's cross country and track & field squads to 15 out of a possible 18 Big South Conference titles since the start of the 2009-10 academic year. Under Tolsma's guidance, Liberty's cross country and track & field squads have now won 90 conference titles (including Big South, IC4A and Mason-Dixon) since his arrival on campus.
The 2009-10 athletic year was one of the finest in program history, highlighted by the Big South Conference's first-ever "Double Triple." The unique achievement, which has only been accomplished by 10 different schools in NCAA Division I history, saw the Flames and Lady Flames sweep all six Big South titles (men's cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field and women's cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field.)
Individually, Sam Chelanga closed his career in 2011 with a total of four NCAA national titles, including two apiece in cross country and outdoor track & field. Additionally, Heather (Sagan) Zealand won the mile at the 2002 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships and Josh McDougal was the national champion at the 2007 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. Tolsma has been at the helm for each of the Flames' six individual national titles.
Chelanga's performance at the 2011 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which included a 5K national championship and a runner-up finish in the 10K, helped Liberty tie for 12th place in the final men's team standings. That is the highest NCAA Division I team finish in program and Big South Conference history in either cross country or track & field.
Tolsma has won 50 Big South Coach of the Year honors and twice was named the NCAA District Coach of the Year. His number of coach of the year recognitions is almost the same as the number of NCAA Division I All-Americans he has coached at Liberty. Tolsma's athletes have earned a combined 50 All-America honors since the program moved to the NCAA Division I level in 1989, including those earned by Melinda Bendik and Kolby Shepherd in 2012.
Tolsma's student-athletes have also excelled in the classroom during his tenure at Liberty. Seven Liberty cross country/track & field student-athletes have earned CoSIDA Academic All-America honors at the Division I level under his guidance.
Tolsma's coaching career began at Campbell in Buies Creek, N.C., where he served as the head men's and women's cross country and track & field coach for seven years (1979-86).
Tolsma completed his undergraduate work with summa cum laude distinction in 1971 at Newark College of Engineering, since renamed New Jersey Institute of Technology. He went on to earn a master's degree in hydraulic engineering from Michigan in 1973 and a Ph.D. in the biomechanics of sport from Indiana in 1979. Tolsma's doctoral dissertation was entitled "Leg Dynamics of Maximum Speed Sprinting."
Tolsma has published several articles about track & field training and released a book, The Surrendered Christian Athlete, which expounds the role of the Christian faith in athletics. He has also designed several athletic training devices.
When he can find time, Tolsma still actively trains and competes in track & field. He won his age group in the World Double Decathlon Championship in both 2005 and 2010, as well as the Masters National Decathlon Championship in both 1993 and 2003. He placed second at the World Veterans Games decathlon in 1995 and at the 2002 World Double-Decathlon Championship in Finland.
During September 2010 at the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex, Tolsma set the world record for men aged 60 and over in the double decathlon, a two-day, 20-event competition which includes all of the track & field disciplines. In October 2007, Tolsma broke his age group's world record for the one-day double decathlon. Tolsma also set an age group (55-60) world record for the double heptathlon in December 2008, while competing at Liberty's indoor track & field facility bearing his name.
The former president of the International Association of Ultra Multi-events, Tolsma has raced nearly every competitive distance from 50 meters to 50 miles. The latter he did to celebrate reaching age 50, about a decade ago.
Tolsma enjoys a number of sports and fitness activities, especially water-skiing. Nancy, his wife of 37 years, is the mother of his six children: Michelle, who is married to former Liberty tennis player Matthew Schley; Rachel; Brenda, who is married to current Liberty assistant track & field coach Clendon Henderson; Regina; Joey and Tami, a four-year member of the Liberty women's track & field team who just graduated in May. Tolsma also has eight grandchildren.