John Gard, Cassidy McGowan: Co-Head Coaches for Track and Field Program


Joey Bonadonna, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

The Tritons’ track and field program has two new co-head coaches: John Gard and Cassidy McGowan. Those names might sound familiar to the NDA community as they also currently coach together in the cross country program, having done so since 2015.

After previous coach, Molly French, moved to Texas, the spot opened up, and the school hired Gard and McGowan to the new position.

I follow the sport closely as a fan,” McGowan said. “But now I get to be one of our athletes’ biggest fans as head coach here at Notre Dame Academy.”

Cross country athletes have been fond of the coaching dynamic of Gard and McGowan and look forward to competing under their counsel in the spring.

“They both bring great leadership and knowledge to the sport of track,” senior Jack Christensen said. “They are extremely respected on the cross country team, and I’m sure that will be just the same for the track team.”

The cross country team has had great success under Gard since 2009, with McGowan joining the staff in 2015. They have competed in a combined 17 WIAA state races with the girls’ team winning the Division 2 state title in 2014.

“(McGowan) and I will develop a culture of large numbers, great joy and help kids grow as young adults in the classroom and as a team,” Gard said in a statement announcing the hiring.

“Coach Gard and I have something special.  We are not only friends, but we want the same thing, which is to compete at the highest level possible but also develop young men and women,” McGowan said. “I have been coaching with Mr Gard for the past 6 years, and we complement each other in many ways.  I am excited to grab the reins together.”

The track program has had an odd year, as they did not get to compete in the 2020 spring season due to COVID-19. 

“The last thing we want is to miss two seasons in a row,” Christensen said. “I think working hard but safely is where our minds are at right now.” Christensen had not competed in track and field in his freshman and sophomore years, but had planned to compete his junior year before the cancellation.

From a coaching perspective, the mindset remains the same: leave a lasting impression on their athletes, both on and off the track.

“The mindset going into this spring is multi-faceted, but first and foremost growing the program and continuing the excellence that all sports programs have had here is paramount,” McGowan said. “I also want to give our student-athletes an opportunity to be their best self and form lifetime healthy habits, which includes participating in sports.  Obviously, we want to win but,  more importantly we want to develop the next generation of leaders.”

There’s a lot of time between now and the season, but the work starts now for Gard and McGowan in the new position, and the future looks bright.