Cross country: College coach joins DragonsCami Paulson, the former head coach of the track and field and cross country teams at Bowling Green State University in Ohio the past 12 years, takes over the Math and Science Academy cross country program this fall.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, Woodbury Bulletin
Going from a Div. I program to one of the state’s smallest high schools may seem like a strange path to take for some.
But it makes sense to Cami Paulson.
Paulson, the former head coach of the track and field and cross country teams at Bowling Green State University in Ohio the past 12 years, takes over the Math and Science Academy cross country program this fall.
“My husband started a new job here in Minnesota in June,” said Paulson, a North Dakota native who graduated from Drake University in Iowa and earned her master’s in sports administration from Wichita State University in Kansas. “I wanted to stay involved in coaching, but not necessarily at the college level. It worked out well. Math and Science Academy is a great place with great kids.”
A charter school in Woodbury, Math and Science Academy serves students in grades six through 12. With a ninth through 12th-grade enrollment of 143 according to Minnesota State High School League guidelines — the school offers intense math and science experiences along with providing creative and challenging opportunities in arts, humanities and athletics.
Paulson, 39, said she has enjoyed meeting the kids and that it was “a positive group,” adding that the new job will be different than leading a big college program.
“I’m excited about it,” said Paulson, an Oakdale resident. “It offers some new challenges and is certainly different from what I’m used to. Coaching college kind of consumes your whole life. This is a better balance overall.”
Cross country running was MSA’s first sport. Track and field came soon thereafter. Three years ago, in addition to boys and girls basketball, the Nordic skiing program began.
Paulson takes the reins of the cross country program from former head coach Daniel Scheff, who led the Dragons the past four years. Scheff spearheaded the additions of the track and field and Nordic skiing programs at MSA.
Molly Molitor, Math and Science Activities Director the past three years, said Scheff left MSA to pursue an athletic administration graduate degree in Colorado.
“Dan really did further our cross country, track and Nordic skiing teams and it was tough to see him go,” Molitor said. “It was sad when he told us he was leaving, but we understood why he wanted to go and that he needed to move on.”
Paulson tendered her resignation at Bowling Green last March. She served as the women’s cross country coach since 1999, took over the men’s cross country team in 2002, and became head coach of the track and field program in 2006.
“Cami’s time here has been marked by a number of accomplishments and I want to thank her for her commitment to our student-athletes,” Bowling Green State University Director of Athletics Greg Christopher said in a March release from the school. “Cami gave everything she had to our program and we all wish her the best moving forward.”
At Bowling Green, Paulson coached athletes to 81 individual top-eight finishes in the MAC Championships and 13 more relay top-eight finishes. She led 16 All-MAC performers (seven in cross country and nine in track and field), along with one NCAA provisional qualifier in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Paulson coached nine school record holders.
Academically, Paulson’s women’s cross country team was awarded the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic designation 10 consecutive years. Last year’s men’s cross country team earned the distinction for the first time since 2001-02 and the track and field team was honored for the third consecutive year. Paulson’s athletes have earned Academic All-MAC status 27 times, Academic All-District IV distinction six times, and Academic All-American twice.
Molitor said Paulson’s coaching experience made her stand out from other applicants.
“She was the most qualified for sure,” Molitor said. “It’ll definitely benefit the kids. They’re going to have a lot of information to pull from the college level into the high school level.”
Paulson said she would likely coach track and field in addition to cross country, but wasn’t planning on coaching Nordic skiing, having no experience with the sport.
But, for now, she said is focused on cross country and the 37 runners in the program.
“I just want to help every student-athlete there get the most out of their abilities,” Paulson said. “There’s a large range there from seventh graders that are just starting out to juniors and seniors who have quite a bit of athletic ability and some lofty goals for themselves and the team. We’re excited about it and ready to have a strong season with the boys and girls squads.”