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McCaleb will be new FD boys track coach

Former Dodger state champion to lead program

Track and field has always been an area of expertise for Quennel McCaleb.

His true passion isn’t just about the sport itself, though. McCaleb loves helping kids reach their full potential as athletes, but it pales in comparison to how he feels about raising more productive citizens in Fort Dodge.

McCaleb has been named Fort Dodge Senior High’s new varsity boys track coach, pending board approval next week. The 1999 FDSH graduate will be taking over for John McBride, who retired after 14 seasons earlier this spring.

The 41-year-old McCaleb is a former state track champion for the Dodgers. After years away from the sport, McCaleb recently got involved in coaching again at the middle school level — and rediscovered an inner fire he’d been suppressing for over 20 years.

“I just found that motivation again — being back in the sport, watching kids grow, getting better, having fun, pushing their limits,” McCaleb said. “I started to remember everything I’d experienced as an athlete myself, and realized I had so much to give to a new generation (of student-athletes). Looking back, I was blessed in so many ways and had a lot of great coaches and leaders help show me the way. You don’t always realize it when you’re 17 or 18 years old, but you do when you get to be my age.

“To be fast is God given. But to maximize your potential isn’t just about your natural talent. You have to train and do all of the necessary things it takes to be successful. You have to live the lifestyle and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Every kid needs to be willing to get uncomfortable first. The process and the work you put in leads to the rewards at the end of the day.”

McCaleb will be moving from his role in student support services at the Fort Dodge Middle School to a similar position at FDSH. His tenure at FDMS taught McCaleb just how important those formative years are for young men and women looking for purpose and direction.

“Middle school is such a critical time to get kids involved,” McCaleb said. “I saw it every day, in the classroom, the hallways and as a coach through athletics and activities.

“My No. 1 goal isn’t just to get kids out for track at the high school level — it’s building from the middle school on up. I can’t expect them to come out as juniors or seniors if I’m not building relationships or staying in contact with them when they’re younger. So I’m going to be visible and make sure not just myself, but my staff, is keeping close tabs on what is happening (at FDMS). I’m confident that the current coaches there are going to continue to do a great job of making track a priority in our community.”

McCaleb was the state’s 200-meter dash gold medalist in 1998. A loss in the finals of his senior season to Davenport North standout and eventual University of Nebraska and University of Iowa football player Marques Simmons — by a tenth of a second — followed McCaleb like a shadow for years, though.

“I had a hard time getting past that (setback),” McCaleb said. “I had opportunities to do other things — first with college, then some semi-pro and pro tryouts and workouts (McCaleb was also a basketball and football standout at FDSH) — but God always had a plan for me here (in Fort Dodge). It wasn’t a curse. It was a blessing. Everything I am and everything I stand for is rooted in what it means to be a Dodger.

“I truly believe I was put on this Earth to give back to the community that raised me to be the person I am today.”

McCaleb recently obtained his Bachelor’s degree from Buena Vista University, with a double major in Criminal Justice and Human Services and a minor in Psychology.

“I’m driven to be a part of these kids’ lives,” McCaleb said. “I learned so much and have so much to pass on — both from the right decisions I made when I was their age, and how to steer clear of some of the wrong ones. It’s a give and take, though: I’m going to be there for you, now I want you to commit to me and your teammates. It’s all about working as one. ‘Together We Rise’ is the motto, right? We need to walk the walk and support each other unconditionally. That’s what being a Dodger is all about.”

McCaleb sees track and field as the ultimate “gateway” sport, and will pitch it as such to both current and future Dodger athletes.

“Want to be faster in football, basketball or softball? Go out for track,” McCaleb said. “Want to be quicker on the basketball or volleyball court? Go out for track. It applies to everything you can think of. You name it, I’ll give you a reason why competing in track is important for your success in other sports.”

McCaleb knows he has big shoes to fill, walking in the footsteps of former head coaches McBride and Sam Moser.

“I have a lot to learn,” McCaleb said. “I’ll be asking a lot of questions and reaching out to Coach McBride, Coach Moser and other (former assistants) who have helped pave the way. There’s a lot of tradition here. I was lucky to be a part of it (as an athlete). Now I’m ready as a coach.

“I’m not trying to be a kid’s best friend — I’m trying to teach them and coach them into being better people. Sam Moser did that for me when I was (at FDSH). He’s always played a huge role in helping me grow and mature, and I appreciated that more and more as I got older. I want to be that person. I want them to say, ‘Mr. McCaleb made a difference in my life.’ That’s what I’m here for. That’s what I’m looking forward to most.”

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