No one is perfect. Everyone has their flaws; things they wish they could do better. But when Darren Gauson, head coach of the cross country and track teams, was asked what made assistant coach Danny Stults especially good at his job, he paused, momentarily seeming speechless.
“What isn’t Danny good at?” Gauson said. “Danny’s really good at everything … I’ve had assistants in the past where I have to check over their work, but he just makes my life a lot easier. He’s so independent and I never have to worry about him getting his job done.”
Stults, a native of Springfield, is in his second season as an assistant on the Braves’ coaching staff. He stumbled into being a runner in middle school. A friend was going to cross country practice the next day, and encouraged Stults to come along. He ran in jean shorts and Vans sneakers.
Stults instantly fell in love with the sport. With some consistent training and the addition of proper running gear, he compiled a strong enough resume to run at the Division I level at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He ran distances ranging from the 8-kilometer during cross country season, all the way down to the 400 and 800 meter races on the track in the spring.
As a sophomore, Stults ran the mile, the 800-meter and was on the distance medley relay team at the Ohio Valley Indoor Conference meet.
“That race embodied my role on the team,” Stults said. “I was the guy who could grind himself into nothing just to score a handful of points to help the team out. I was proud of that whole weekend.”
After college, Stults spent three years as a volunteer assistant coach at the consistently nationally-ranked Oklahoma State University. While there, he developed the course that will be used for the 2020 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Stillwater, Oklahoma on Nov. 21, 2020.
In 2013, Stults moved to St. Louis, and worked a desk job as a financial analyst until 2017, but remained close to the running and coaching scene.
Even while working in the finance management world, Stults coached a club running team in the St. Louis area. He always wanted to get back to coaching. When an opportunity arose at Bradley, Stults jumped on it, having a large desire to return to college athletics.
“I was always the guy on the team people felt comfortable coming to,” Stults said. “I think [coaching] just happened naturally.”
Stults has been involved with every aspect of the Bradley program. On top of the massive positive impact he has had on men’s recruiting, Stults has tremendous respect among all the runners.
“He does some of their runs with them, which makes the athletes more comfortable around him,” Gauson said. “Sometimes athletes don’t want to ask the head coach about certain things because they feel like ‘I don’t want to bother him.’ Danny has all the trust of the athletes and they all feel comfortable talking to him.”
Gauson also noted Stults’ experience all over the field of collegiate cross country and track and field, with experience in meet management, coaching, recruiting and general paperwork. He said Stults is an essential part of the team.
With Stults only in his second year on staff, and Bradley’s success in his first year, the next several years seem filled with boundless potential. When asked about interest in being a head coach one day, Stults answered immediately, seemingly ready for the question before it was asked.
“Yeah, I would like to one day,” Stults said. “I think I’d be pretty good at it if being honest.”
The Braves have a top notch coaching staff, ready to take the team to new heights.