Fife brothers keep coaching tradition alive


Jordan Fife and Nolan Fife had just completed their indoor track and field seasons in March when plans for their spring outdoor seasons came to a sudden halt because of COVID-19.

Jordan, 37, is the head women’s track and field and cross country coach at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. Nolan has been an assistant men’s track and field and cross country coach for four years at the University of Illinois, where he works with the distance runners.

“We completed the Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships before the virus hit," Nolan said. "We did not have anyone qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships, so that did not directly affect us.”

The Fifes are graduates of Seymour High School and sons of Randy Fife, Seymour’s boys cross country and track and field head coach.

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As officially director of cross country and track and field, Jordan does more than draw up workout plans.

“My main day-to-day activities include coaching the cross country team in the fall and distance runners during track, managing the operations budget, personnel decisions and recruitment of future student-athletes and planning logistics of team travel,” he said.

Missouri State is a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. The Bears finished third out of 10 teams in the MVC indoor track meet, which was an improvement from sixth the year before, Jordan said. 

Missouri State was scheduled to open its outdoor season at the Oral Roberts Invitational March 27 and 28.

Jordan, a 2002 graduate of SHS, advanced to the state cross country meet two times and to the state track and field meet twice, both times in the 3,200-meter run.

He then attended Indiana State University for five years because he was injured during his freshman indoor season. He competed in four seasons each of cross country, indoor track and outdoor track.

He then trained with Team Indiana Elite in Bloomington and went to the Olympic Trials in 2008 and 2012, competing in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

He moved to Missouri State in 2014 and became head track coach in the fall of 2018. There were 36 members of the MSU women’s track team this spring, and 23 were from Missouri.

“Because of our budget and limited coaching staff, we do not travel much to recruit,” Jordan said. “I will occasionally travel to local meets and most of the state meets. We recruit a lot from St. Louis and Kansas City and from neighboring states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and Arkansas.”

Because of COVID-19, he has not been able to meet with his athletes in-person since the season shut down.

“We have weekly video meetings and a group chat to stay connected with the team as well as weekly conferences and head coaches meetings online," he said. "We are still busy recruiting the Class of 2020 and reaching out to the Class of 2021.”

Jordan likes working with college athletes.

“I enjoy helping young student-athletes have a rewarding and fun college experience, much like my own," he said. "Seeing them overcome adversity to reach goals and realize their full potential as an athlete and a person is second to none.”

Jordan said about all he can do with the cross-country runners right now is give them workouts and hope they stay in shape and are ready to compete when the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

“I am sending them a plan weekly, similar to the summer training, and trusting that they are following it,” he said.

Nolan, 28, said the coronavirus has affected the Illini outdoor track team in the same manner it has spring sport athletes across the nation.

“The cancellation of the outdoor track and field and all the NCAA sports this spring has been difficult for a lot of people but none more than our student-athletes," Nolan said. "It has been our priority over the last month at the University of Illinois to make sure that our student-athletes are healthy and supported during this time.

“As the decisions were made by the University of Illinois to conduct classes virtually online, we followed the university and encouraged our student-athletes to return home for the foreseeable future. Each of our student-athletes continues to have access to the resources on campus, even though they cannot physically be here.”

Nolan, a member of Indiana University’s 2012 Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships team and IU’s 2013 Big Ten cross country title team, said the NCAA and Big Ten have allowed the coaches to conduct up to eight hours per week of what they call countable athletically related activities with their athletes.

“We typically have four to five video classes per week with our team where we continue to stay connected with each other, and we have executed team-building activities during these meetings," Nolan said.

“A strength of our team is our culture, and we are using this difficult time as an opportunity to grow closer. We believe we can come out of this stronger than before. A large number of our student-athletes are still able to train in some capacity, but all physical activity at this time is optional and voluntary with the health and well-being of each individual at the forefront.”

There would have been 48 members of Illinois’ men’s track and field team this spring.

“We recruit nationwide,” Nolan said. “We put an emphasis on our home state of Illinois and the Midwest but will recruit all across the country for the best student-athletes we can find.”

Nolan said the NCAA has enforced a recruiting dead period that extends through May 31.

“We are still permitted to make recruiting calls and send messages with prospective student-athletes, even though we cannot have recruits on campus for visits,” he said. “Our athletic director has been a tremendous leader through all this."

At Seymour, Nolan qualified for state in cross country twice and qualified for the state track meet three years. After competing at IU, he spent a year as a graduate assistant at Indiana State University before going to Illinois.

“I enjoy helping develop young men and women into the best athletes and person he or she can be," Nolan said. "Athletics provide a unique opportunity that allows us as coaches to teach valuable lessons and serve student-athletes in many ways.”

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Nolan Fife

Graduated from Seymour High School in 2010.

Competed in cross country, track and field and basketball for four years.

Qualified twice for the state cross country meet.

In track, qualified for state three years — twice in the 1,600-meter run, once in the 800-meter run, once in the 4×800 relay and once in the 4×400 relay.

Graduated from Indiana University in 2015.

Member of the Big Ten indoor track and field championship team in 2012, member of the Big Ten cross country title team in 2013, competed in the NCAA outdoor track preliminaries three times in the steeplechase.

Was a graduate assistant at Indiana State University one year.

Assistant cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field coach at the University of Illinois, two years as a volunteer and two years as a full-time assistant. He also is the cross country recruiting coordinator.

Jordan Fife

Graduated from Seymour High School in 2002.

Ran track for four years and qualified for state twice in the 3,200-meter run. Ran cross country for four years and qualified for state twice.

Graduated from Indiana State University in 2007.

Ran cross country for four years and helped the Sycamores win the Missouri Valley Conference meet twice and placed second his senior year.

Indoor track four years, won the mile twice, part of the Missouri Valley Conference first-place distance medley relay team.

Outdoor track for four years, one MVC champion. Won the 3,000-meter steeplechase twice, won the 5,000 once.

Team Indiana Elite 2007 to 2012.

Steeplechase Olympic Trials 2008 and 2012.

Volunteer coach at Bloomington High School South in 2012 and 2013.

Head women’s cross country and assistant track coach at Missouri State University in 2014. Interim director of track and field and cross country at Missouri State University in 2018 and director of cross country and track teams in 2019.


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