GREENFIELD — Jan Hacker remembers the old, sour days surrounding Greenfield-Central’s running programs.
She remembers watching the Cougars finish in the back of the pack at conference in track and field. And how can she forget watching one runner compete on that lonely 3.5-mile cross-country course?
But with Hacker at the helm for the past 14 seasons, Greenfield-Central has progressively transformed itself into a consistent county, conference and sectional title contender.
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And after her final stint last season, Hacker, who has two young kids with her husband Bill, knew it was the right time to retire. Twenty-five years around the sport has been long enough.
“It’s just time for a fresh start in the program,” Hacker said. “I want to spend more time with my family. My kids are active, and I want to support them. When the kids get older I may get back into it, but we will see how that goes.”
It’s safe to say Hacker leaves on top, too, as Greenfield-Central claimed its fourth straight Hancock County title and third consecutive Hoosier Heritage Conference championship last season. She also led six Cougars to the IHSAA State Finals in Bloomington.
The veteran head coach was quick to acknowledge the talented staff around her, though. Aaron Smith (head coach boys’ cross-country) and his wife, Audrey (assistant track and cross-country coach), are both former runners of Hackers.
The Smith’s and Scott Burton, who is the head boys’ track coach and head girls’ cross-country coach, have been at Greenfield-Central for eight seasons. A few of their assistants have been with the program for over a decade, as well, giving the Cougars a strong, supportive foundation.
The administration has been outstanding, too, Hacker said.
“I am proud of the fact, as a staff, we have always finished in the top half of the conference,” she said. “Most of those years it has been first or second. We have always put ourselves in a position to win. And we built a program with kids who have high character.
“It has been a great run and a very special part of my life.”
Before her time as a varsity coach at Greenfield-Central, Hacker, who graduated high school from Forest Park and attended Indiana State University, spent time as a middle school coach in Fort Wayne.
In high school, she was the wild card of her track team, specializing in the 400-meter dash. However, she able to perform in every event. After draining her energy in three events at a particular meet, she would go to her coach for the fourth.
Now, Hacker plans to spend more time with her son Carter, 11, who plays basketball, baseball and football, and daughter, McKenzie, 8, who likes softball, soccer and basketball.
“I have to thank Bill (husband), who took care of everything so I could coach,” Hacker said.
Nonetheless, Hacker leaves the program in terrific shape.
Returning next season with experience will be seniors Katie Helgason and Hayleigh Loyal, junior Sydney Cook and Jenny Flora and sophomores Hannah Burkhart and Mackenzie Polster.
Past seniors (2016) Savannah Girolami and Amanda Flora, who are both headed to play a sport in college, participated with Cook and Polster at the state finals in the 1,600-meter relay while Girolami, Helgason, Cook and Loyal performed in the 3,200-meter relay at state.
Cook (800-meter) and Girolami (400-meter) also ran in individual events.
“I wanted to make sure the program was still in good shape,” Hacker said. “We still have the talent. I am very proud of the leaders that we have. It’s an amazing group. Whoever comes in (to coach), I can’t imagine they won’t be thrilled.”
Hacker will continue her duties as a physical education teacher (fourth, fifth and sixth grades) at Maxwell and Greenfield Intermediate Schools.