Head track coach Tony Veney has made the shift from an assistant coach at a widely known Oregon program to building a foundation to a winning program at Portland State. The transition continues for Veney every day, as he makes a 90-minute commute from his home in Eugene.
“I’ve enjoyed the transition, the challenge of building a program here. The difference between Eugene and Portland is it’s more diverse and densely populated here in Portland. You won’t see that in Eugene,” Veney said.
The season just ended for Viking track last week at the Big Sky Championship in Montana. It was the last meet on a busy, beginning season for a long road ahead of the Vikings’ program according to Veney. Veney did not set high, unreachable goals for his first season at PSU, he just wanted his kids to compete hard and at a high level.
“The meet went well on the men’s side, but was a little disappointing on the women’s. The men tied the highest ever point total of a PSU team, and competing only with seven,” Veney said.
The women had some key injuries that hurt their point totals. Kerine Harvey, who could have gathered up to 15 points, was hindered by a hamstring injury, and was only able to get one total point.
“Lisa Gunderson came through for us, getting second in the high jump. Jenny Rodgers competed great also, scoring in the 5,000-meters. They both did a fine job. The other girls who went gained valuable experience for next year. So overall it was a little disappointing, but encouraging because everyone returns next year,” an optimistic Veney said.
For his first year at the helm of a suffering PSU track program, Coach Veney did not expect too much. He feels that the first season of a new coach in this situation almost shouldn’t count. He was even told by a mentor of his not to take the job because it was bad career choice. Despite all that, Veney took on what he wanted: a challenge.
“My goal is to win the Big Sky in three to five years. This year my major goal was to have the young people compete hard and we accomplished that. I also wanted to have indoor All-Americans and we did that. There weren’t any goals we didn’t reach. This first year went to what I was expecting to happen,” Veney said.
He feels that this part of the state has stronger athletes to choose from at the high school level than the southern Oregon area. Veney feels PSU has great potential not just in track, but also in all athletics.
“The administration is supportive of me taking time to build the program. As a coach that’s all you can ask for. It’s been a great challenge, exciting and frustrating at times, but it was the same in Eugene at times. Your job is what you make of it,” Veney said.