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Coach inspires students to gauge success by more than clocks and tape measures

Fogelsanger familyWhen Dale Fogelsanger ’87 was a student at Messiah College, he never imagined that he would one day return and be colleagues with both his academic mentor and admired track coach. But, 14 years ago, the Hanover native pursued an opportunity that changed his life: he returned to his alma mater and began to teach in the biological sciences department and lead the College’s highly successful cross country and track and field programs.

Track and field as well as cross country athletes compete primarily against the clock and tape measure, a practice that Fogelsanger himself excelled at while a Messiah student. Just last year he watched his 20-year-old school record in the 400 meter be bested, but, he points out, “These sports are about so much more than time and numbers; they’re about the friendships and relationships.” Considering that the Fogelsanger family often hosts upwards of 70 students at their Dillsburg home at one time and keeps in touch with dozens of alums, it seems he has excelled at the relationship part as well.

“We have soft pretzel and ice cream nights at our house,” explains Fogelsanger while telling stories about having students in his family’s swimming pool, on their trampoline, in their backyard, and inside watching track meet videos. Fogelsanger and his wife, Denise, have three daughters: Andrea,
13; Ashley, 11; and Amber, 7. The Fogelsanger girls faithfully attend cross country and track and field meets and know the athletes well. And, since he doesn’t have time to do much running himself these days, Fogelsanger relaxes by tending to his vegetable garden and spending time with
his family. His oldest daughter, Andrea, even accompanied the team on their annual spring break trip this past March, an experience they both cite as life-changing.

In 2007 and 2008 team members traveled to an impoverished area of Mexico and helped build homes and distribute food. In 2006, they went to Mississippi twice for Hurricane Katrina relief work. “The service projects over spring break are great for creating unity among the team as well as putting a great perspective on athletic successes and disappointments,” Fogelsanger said.

Messiah’s cross country and track and field programs have had plenty to celebrate over the years, including many conference team championships, regional athlete and coach awards, and individual national championships. In November 2007, Fogelsanger and a group of cross country runners traveled to New York City to see Messiah College alumnus Brian Sell run a 2:11 marathon and qualify for the Olympics. “That was one of my top three athletic highlights ever,” Fogelsanger said about the experience. Then, in June of 2008, Fogelsanger traveled to Eugene, Oregon, to watch alumnus Chris Boyles ’01 complete in the decathlon for a spot on the Olympic team. Boyles, unfortunately, was plagued by a lingering ankle injury and unable to complete the competition.

Fogelsanger builds his teams and encourages his athletes around three principles: being Christ-centered, team-enriched, and self-motivated. He manages his budgets prudently so that every student who wants to participate can. “It’s especially rewarding to see students attempt track for the first time when they get to college,” he says. Fogelsanger delights in seeing his athletes succeed—whether by earning a trip to the Olympics or by improving their personal best from season to season. Ultimately, he says “I just want to see students graduate from college, keep running and maintain a healthy sense of exercise, nutrition, and balance as they care for the temple God has given them.”


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