Jon Warren continues great run with Rice
Ever since he put on a Rice cross country jersey 25 years ago, Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) has been involved in Rice Owls' track and field. After setting university records in both the mile and the 3,000-meter distances during his four-year career, Warren began volunteer coaching at age 23.
The imprint Rice has had on Warren has been reciprocated throughout his many years with the men's track and field and cross country programs. According to the Rice Athletics website, under Warren's guidance, the track and field team has won three individual NCAA individual titles, 27 individual conference championships and four team conference championships, and it has finished in the top 25 as a team three times at the NCAA championships.
In addition to his successes as a runner and his four Conference Coach of the Year titles, Warren has achieved much beyond the hedges. He has made the Olympic trials in both the steeplechase and the marathon. In 1996, he finished eighth in the U.S. marathon Olympic trials. According to the Rice Athletics website, he is the only American to run a mile in less than 4 minutes and finish a marathon in under 2 hours and 20 minutes in the same year.
The Thresher sat down with Warren to talk about his accomplishments at Rice and his career as a coach.
Rice Thresher: What are your favorite track moments from your time at Rice?
Jon Warren: In 1986, I was second in the 5-kilometer in the Southwestern Conference championship that we hosted, which was huge. Also in 1986, I ran a school record in the 3,000-meter, which is still a school record, and I'm supposed to be coaching people to break that. In 1987, I qualified for the Indoor National meet in the mile. I set the pool record for that, too, but since then, I've had somebody break that, so I'm happy about that. Teamwise, in 1987, our cross country team was 19th in the nation. That was a pretty big moment.
RT: How did you feel after running a sub-4:00 mile?
JW: That was a lifelong dream, and it was one of those funny things - my dad had bought a bottle of wine for whenever that happened. We opened the wine, and of course the wine was vinegar, [so it] had gone bad. He'd had it for a very long time. I was 29 years old when I broke 4:00; I didn't do it at Rice, so I was a bum for a long time.
RT: Why did you decide to coach at Rice?
JW: The idea of coaching is an awesome profession. Rice is very different from the vast majority of universities out there in that it's not essentially just about the athletics; it's not just about how much faster can these kids run. We truly do want all students to not only grow as athletes, but also grow as people as well. The people that we get want to be students. They don't come to Rice because they want to be athletes only; they come because they want the rare opportunity to be a true student and not sacrifice anything at all academically and also be able to compete and be the best athlete they possibly can. I love being in that environment.
RT: What is your coaching philosophy?
JW: In a word, it's individualization. Oftentimes things will overlap with other athletes, but everyone's a little bit different, and whether I need to help them in the weight room or on the track or with their academic schedule, every individual is different. I build toward that as our primary goal.
RT: Would you say you've enjoyed running or coaching more?
JW: I've had friends that have done both coaching and running, and they'll say it was easier being a runner because they can control it more. My response is that's true, but it doesn't hurt to coach. Running a 10-kilometer or a steeplechase or a cross country or a mile, you're going to experience discomfort. I've experienced a lot of emotions as a coach, but I have never been in pain because of it. So they're very different. I still run now, and I compete a little bit to keep that mindset together. I've very much enjoyed my running career, but the coaching career is awesome as well. And it's one of those great ways that you choose to spend a life where you'll get up in the morning and go do it every day.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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