Bergan Statue Dedicated at Sports Complex
AMES, Iowa – Underscoring his status as an Iowa State athletics icon, the Iowa State Athletics Department unveiled a statue of longtime former head cross country and track and field coach Bill Bergan Friday at the Entry Plaza of the Cyclone Sports Complex. The sculpture by Larry Nowlan of Windsor, Vt. is befitting of a man who coached Iowa State to a pair of NCAA cross country championships and numerous Big Eight Conference track and field titles between 1971 and 1995.
“Bill Bergan built a national championship caliber program while initially facing the biggest of obstacles,” Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard said. “
There was no indoor track facility and the team practiced outdoors at Ames High School. Bill’s relentless drive to overcome these hurdles elevated Iowa State’s cross country and track and field programs into national championship level teams.
The statue will grace the entrance to the complex that includes a new outdoor track and field facility that bears his name.
Iowa State had finished in the bottom half of the Big Eight Conference meet for 11 consecutive years when Bergan became the university’s cross country coach in 1971. The men’s track team had finished last or next to last at the Big Eight outdoor conference meet for 21 straight years. Three years after Bergan’s arrival, Iowa State won its first Big Eight cross country title in 43 years.
“I want to thank President Leath, Jamie Pollard and all the people, who each in their own way, made this possible,” Bergan said. “I owe a great debt to my wife, Karen. At one time she was driving to track meets with three children under the age of three. (Director and Chief Curator of University Museums) Lynette Pohlman worked hard on this and I thank the artist, Larry Nowlan for his work. Ultimately, my assistant coaches and athletes are the individuals who made this all possible. I would not be standing up here without their efforts.”
In 1981, five years after Bergan assumed the duties of head track coach, the Cyclone men won their first outdoor conference track championship in 36 years. When Bergan retired in 1995, he had guided Iowa State to 25 Big Eight conference team championships and two NCAA titles.
“Bill’s record speaks for itself and his impact continues today in our program through his former pupil and current Iowa State head coach Corey Ihmels,” Pollard said. “While numerous trophies speak for the accomplishments of his teams, his greatest legacy remains his student-athletes, who are now ambassadors for Iowa State around the world. Some of them are here today to honor coach Bergan and be a part of this special event.”
Bergan coached 16 Olympians from six different nations, including intermediate hurdler Danny Harris and distance runner Yobes Ondieki. Harris won a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics following his freshman year at Iowa State, and Ondieki won a world title in the 5,000-meter run for Kenya and set a world record in the 10,000 meters.
Iowa State won NCAA cross country titles in 1989 and 1994 and finished second in 1990 and 1991. John Nuttall (1989) and Jonah Koech (1990) won NCAA individual crowns for the Cyclones.
Bergan also helped build the Iowa State cross country course that’s considered one of the finest in the country. Iowa State played host to the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in 1995, Bergan’s final season as a coach, and again in 2000.