People often have to get away from their comfort zones in order to accomplish their goals. For Bradley track and cross-country head coach Darren Gauson, this involved leaving his home country of Scotland to explore the unknown.
Gauson went to Napier University in Edinburgh, Scotland, obtaining a degree in sports and exercise science.
In college, Gauson was an excellent runner and among the best in all of Scotland. He won the Scottish national championship in 2004 and 2005 at 1,500m.
Following his collegiate success, Gauson primarily wanted to come to the U.S. to complete his master’s. He admitted that he did not imagine that there were career opportunities in running. Despite his desire for new experiences in a new environment, Gauson was looking for a place where he would be with fellow countrymen.
“There were a few track athletes I knew that were starting to come in the U.S.,” Gauson said. “I really only looked into Florida State and Butler University because they had a good amount of Brits and Scots.”
Butler was eventually the choice for Gauson. The school’s size, the relationships he had with fellow British athletes as well as the head coach were determining factors.
After a solid first year, Gauson got injured and was unable to compete or practice during the fall of his final season. It was during that time that he was able to discover his coaching skills.
“Instead of not being involved in practice, I was involved even more,” he said. “I showed up to practice earlier, timing, set up cones, anything I could to just help out.”
In addition to his work in practice, Gauson was able to help on the recruiting side with his connection in Britain. He planned on getting a Ph.D. or starting teaching after he got his master’s. Those plans soon changed after Butler head coach Matt Roe asked him to join his staff as a part-time assistant coach following his graduation. He accepted the position while also teaching at Butler’s physical education program and at an international school in Indianapolis.
After working part-time for two years, Gauson was promoted to full-time assistant after Collette Huffman left the program. The Bulldogs extended their conference cross-country winning streak to 14 during his tenure and boasted four All-Americans.
His success with Butler attracted attention from multiple programs, including Notre Dame, where he was interviewed for a position.
Gauson ended up taking a job as head cross-country and assistant track coach at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas in 2012. Upon Gauson’s arrival, the Cardinals had a promising season where Matt Johnsen finished 33rd in the NCAA championship and was named an All-American.
Gauson then led the men’s and women’s cross-country teams to consecutive Southland Conference championships in 2013 and 2014. Prior to his arrival, the women’s cross-country team had not won anything in 10 years.
In addition to winning the conference, the men’s team finished 3rd in the NCAA Regional championship in 2013.
In 2015, Sam Stabler was Gauson’s second All-American and had the second-fastest 5,000m time in the country. Cardinals runners won 29 individual championships during his three years at the helm.
After his success at Lamar, Gauson was eager to look for new opportunities and He took the reigns of Bradley’s cross-country and track programs in 2015-2016 and has seen success ever since.
During this time, he has won five Missouri Valley Conference cross-country championships with the men and three with the women. He also won one regional championship. His runners have won 14 individual titles and three relay races.
On the personal side, Gauson won MVC coaching honors eight times in five years. He also won the 2018 Roy Griak Award as the USTFCCCA Midwest Region Men’s Coach of the Year.
Now in his sixth year with the Braves, the peculiarity of this new season has provided a new set of challenges for Gauson and his team.
“I have never spent more than five years at a single place, it was always build then move on,” Gauson said. “This season with COVID, things feel a bit newer with the restrictions and everything we have to get through, but it’s fun and brings out a desire to compete in me.”
With a new set of promising recruits, Gauson said his desire is to turn Bradley into a name brand and keep building the program piece by piece.
“The funny thing [about] a lot of people in coaching and the American coaches [is] they want to go to Michigan, Iowa State, Cal, Stanford,” he said. “In Scotland, I didn’t know who Cal was, who Stanford was, who Bradley was, who Butler was; it was all the same to me.”
Rather than joining a school that is already solidified, Gauson desires to make Bradley a name-brand school in cross-country and track.
“Unless something completely unexpected happens, I want to continue building this program for the next eight, nine, 10 plus years,” Gauson said.