Decorah native Niels Anderson is no stranger to success.
As a track and field athlete, Anderson was among the best around - a two-time all-state selection at Decorah High School, graduating in 1991, and a five-time all-conference and three-time conference champion at Luther College, where he was also team captain and voted Most Inspirational Athlete three times before graduating in 1995.
As a coach, it's been more of the same - Anderson has guided his La Crosse (Wis.) Central teams to conference, regional and sectional championships, while also earning Mississippi Valley Conference Coach of the Year honors each of the last three years and District 3 Coach of the Year accolades in 2012.
Last Wednesday, Saint Mary's University Athletic Director Nikki Fennern announced Anderson would be bringing his successful track record to the Cardinals as the new head men's and women's track and field coach.
"I am very pleased that Niels will be the next head men's and women's track and field coach at Saint Mary's University," Fennern said. "Niels has had great success in every place he has coached. He is a great fit with the university and the department - and I look forward to working with him as we grow the track and field program."
Anderson has been involved in high school cross country and track and field for the past 13 years, the last five as the head coach at La Crosse Central, where he guided the Red Raiders to back-to-back-to-back conference, regional and sectional titles, while also garnering third- and second-place showings at the WIAA state meet in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
"Being offered the head track and field coaching position at Saint Mary's is a dream come true," said Anderson, who, over the past four years, has coached 12 student-athletes who have gone on to compete in college - eight at the NCAA Division I level and four more at NCAA Division III. "I am sincerely grateful for this opportunity. However, this is not a 'me' thing. This venture will take a collaborative effort from the coaching and administrative staff, the current and past teams and all those who love Saint Mary's.
"I hope to be the person to facilitate that."
And Anderson is ready to hit the ground running.
"An initial goal I have is to take the existing team and develop a common vision to build for the future of the track program," explained Anderson. "Secondly, I want to see the track program grow - I want high school athletes on this campus often for competition and camps. I believe this is an unbelievable venue for track. It merely needs to be announced and it will flourish.
"My longer-term goals will include fielding men's and women's teams that can compete against the best the MIAC has to offer - and win," Anderson added. "As someone who is ultra-competitive, this is the challenge I have set before me - and I wouldn't have it any other way."
Anderson is the son of H. George Anderson of Decorah and Jutta Anderson of Decorah.