Spatz Steps Down As NNU Cross Country, Track Coach
After 16 years as NNU, John Spatz is taking over as head track and field coach at the Community Colleges of Spokane, where he was an athlete an assistant coach.
After 16 years as NNU, John Spatz is taking over as head track and field coach at the Community Colleges of Spokane, where he was an athlete an assistant coach.

Thursday, July 26, 2018
by Northwest Nazarene Athletic Communications

NAMPA, Idaho – After 16 years leading the Northwest Nazarene University track and field and cross country programs, John Spatz resigned on July 26.

Spatz will return to his alma mater at the Community Colleges of Spokane (Wash.) where he will be a professor in the PE/health department and the head track and field coach.

"Where we are at today and where we came from is truly amazing in so many ways," Spatz said of the NNU athletic department. "Whatever my contribution has been with the student-athletes, and the track and cross country programs, the history of it is special."

Spatz has coached 520 GNAC All-Academic Team members, 53 USTFCCCA Academic All-Americans, had 206 athletes set school records and 63 GNAC event champions.

His teams have produced a total of 148 GNAC All-Conference performances on the men's side and 161 on the women's. He oversaw 57 student-athletes competing at the NCAA Division II national championships, with three individual titles.

Ashley Puga won the 2009 800-meter crown at the indoor and outdoor national championships and Payton Lewis won the 2017 pole vault outdoor title.

"The number of things that have been accomplished and having the chance to work with over 400 athletes (are something I'll remember)," Spatz said. "The lives that were impacted – from coach to athlete and athlete to coach – there is a lot to be proud of from many different perspectives.

"The highlight of working at NNU is the people across the board in every department. Their generosity, their dedication and the amount of time they give you as a coach or give to the student-athletes isn't like a lot of places I know. That is something to be really proud of."

Spatz grew up in Spokane and attended Spokane Community College for two years, launching his decathlon career. He transferred to Eastern Washington to finish his college career and while there, began as an assistant coach back in Spokane.

He coached several conference champions from 1985-88 at Spokane CC and was eventually inducted into the Spokane CC Athletic Hall of Fame as a part of the coaching staff for the 1986 and 1987 teams. After graduating from Eastern in 1988 he went to Eastern Oregon in La Grande, Ore. He coached there for 14 years, including as the head coach for 12.

Spatz leaves NNU with a lasting legacy of success.

"We are very grateful for the many ways John has served at NNU and tirelessly poured himself into the cross country and track and field programs over the last 16 years," NNU athletic director Kelly Lindley said. "Not only did John build an exceptional NCAA Division II program that excelled on the field and in the classroom, but he mentored and cared for hundreds of student-athletes during their college years. We wish John and his family the best as they begin this new chapter in their lives."

A national search for a new head track and field and cross country coach will begin immediately.

BEN GALL NAMED ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH: At the same time as Spatz announced his resignation, Northwest Nazarene announced the return of Ben Gall as the Nighthawks' associate head cross country coach and the distance coach for the track and field program.

Gall, who coached at NNU for 11 seasons from 2002-11, spent the past six years at California Baptist in Riverside, Calif.

“I think there is a lot of potential in the program,” he said, “and it is exciting to come back and hopefully accomplish some of that.”

Gall replaces Jake Perry, who resigned at the end of the track and field season to pursue a full-time career in firefighting. Gall initially was hired at NNU as a kinesiology instructor and the cross country position then opened later.

“Basically, I took a job as a faculty member – that was the original thought,” he said. “And then the whole coaching thing unfolded after that and we are excited about that for sure too.”

Gall coached and taught when he was at NNU previously leading the NNU cross country teams to multiple top 10 West Region rankings. At Cal Baptist, he just coached – and the Lancers were wildly successful under him.

Their cross country teams won 11 PacWest Conference Championships, including six in a row on the men’s side and five with the women. He is a seven-time PacWest Cross Country Coach of the Year and coached seven individual PacWest champions.

In his time at Cal Baptist, there were 61 All-PacWest cross country runners, eight All-West Region runners and three All-American runners on the men’s side. On the women’s side, there were 10 All-West Region runners and four All-American runners.

This past fall, both of Gall’s programs qualified for the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships, with the men taking fifth and the women third.

On the track, Gall coached six national champions, 33 All-Americans, 18 individual conference champions and 50 all-conference performances.

During his first tour of duty at NNU, Gall coached Ashley Puga to indoor and outdoor national championships in the 800 meters in 2009. Puga was recently inducted into the USTFCCCA's Division II Athlete Hall of Fame.