Montoya welcomed as Mandan coach
Michelle Montoya is one of those people who runs toward challenges rather than away from them.
A sprinter at Beulah High School, Montoya turned to distance running. She met that challenge well enough to finish 32nd overall in last year’s Bismarck Marathon.
Her next challenge is to get the Mandan High School girls cross country team to buy into her love of running.
Montoya’s appointment as Mandan girls cross country coach was announced earlier this month. She takes over for Dan Girard, who recently resigned his coaching position after two seasons.
As a personal trainer, Montoya has worked with runners, and one of those clients proved to be her avenue to cross country coaching.
“Actually, one of the girls’ mom told me the (Mandan) job was open and she said I should think about applying for it,” Montoya said. “… Just looking at the track record of my clients, I could see how well they’ve done with running. … Now I’ll be coaching a bunch of kids who want to run and whose focus is totally on performance.”
“I thought it would be neat to see what I could do with a bunch of girls who have a lot of talent already and see how far I could push them,” she added.
Montoya is a 2012 graduate of the University of Mary with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. She ran track at Beulah High School prior to her graduation in 2008.
“I was a sprinter. I tore my hamstring my senior year and gave up on sprinting and didn’t participate in sports in college,” she recalled. “I started to run long distances on my own three or four years ago and got into competitive racing for fun on the side. … I’ve probably done 12 races in the last three years.”
That list includes two marathons, three half-marathons and a marathon relay. Montoya ran her first marathon last spring at Fargo. In the fall she chopped 12 minutes off her time, clocking in at 3:47:14 in the Bismarck Marathon.
Although Montoya hasn’t coached a team before, she’s well grounded in coaching by virtue of her work.
“I’ve been coaching one-on-one, not so much a team aspect,” she said. “… I’ve trained several clients to run a first race or a fastest race. In terms of coaching that way, my clients have done very well.”
Montoya said the adjustment she’ll have to make in cross country is changing the focus from individuals to a group.
“The biggest difference is it’s not going to be as much one-on-one as I do with my clients. … As far as the running plan, I already have really clear ideas about what I want to do with the girls,” she said.
With her racing background, Montoya said she won’t be asking her athletes to do things she hasn’t experienced herself.
“I’ll have a really good understanding of what the girls are going through and how their bodies are feeling,” she said. “… I really know what it takes to get girls to PR and help them overcome the obstacles that are holding them back from that.”
Montoya said she was attracted to distance running because it’s a self-motivated sport.
“I liked it because it’s such a big challenge, but one you can definitely improve on,” she said. “You get exactly out of it what you put into it. … That, for me, is the most rewarding thing there is. That was a big draw for me.”
Lorell Jungling, the Mandan Public Schools activities director, said Montoya’s background in athletic training should serve her well.
“Michelle has a wealth of knowledge in personal training and nutrition. Her education and work experience will be of great value when leading our girls cross country program,” he said. “She is dedicated to individualized training and her passion for running will continue to help grow our program to be successful.”