Baltzell is entering his fifth outdoor season as a member of the URI coaching staff, and second as head coach. PHOTO CREDIT: gorhody.com
As a former URI Track and Field athlete, two time captain, five time individual Atlantic 10 Champion, and all time Decathlon record holder, University of Rhode Island track and field coach Trent Baltzell knows what it takes to win.
Coming full circle, he is now the driving force behind the Rams recent success.
After graduating from URI in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, Baltzell went on to be the head coach for Division II Assumption University from 2017 through 2019. But when legendary URI Track and Field coach John Copeland, who had coached the team since 1982, retired in 2021 and the opportunity arose to return to his alma mater, Baltzell couldn’t resist.
“I couldn’t pass up the chance to come back to URI, it means everything to me,” said Baltzell. “I have so many great memories from my time here as a student-athlete, and I’m excited to be back and give back to the program that gave me so much.”
And give back he has, leading URI’s Track and Field team to an Atlantic 10 indoor title in 2020, an Atlantic 10 outdoor title in 2021, and a New England Outdoor title in 2021.
Even with all of the success that the Track and Field program has had over the last few years, Baltzell is determined to keep the momentum going.
“What we’re trying to avoid at all costs is just complacency,” Baltzell said. “We pretty consistently go over team goals. And as long as we continue to talk about that stuff, and keep it fresh in people’s minds, you know, their objectives are pretty clear throughout the year.”
What sets the URI track and field program apart from others in the country, according to Baltzell, is the team camaraderie.
“We really encourage them to live together, take classes together,” Baltzell said. “And that truly is different than most programs around the country, where you might be in an event group with one or two other guys and your coach, and those are the same three people that you see every single day. But with us, it’s more like a ball sport.”
Baltzell believes that his stellar experience as a former Division I athlete at URI has influenced his perspective as a coach, making it easier for him to relate to his current student athletes.
“Training has shifted slightly over the years,” Baltzell said. “I don’t think URI has changed culturally too much over the last 10 or 15 years. So I know what these guys are doing on and off the track. And yeah, I think back to my time as an athlete quite a bit when I’m trying to make decisions.”
Batlzell, being only 31 years old, is also able to connect with his athletes on a different level than most coaches.
“[Him] Being able to connect with kids, and knowing what they go through on a daily basis, is really helpful,” said URI track and field athlete Eric Zulkofske. “He’s also like, just a nice person to talk to, and understands how the team operates and what works and what doesn’t. Coach Baltzell understands a little bit more of how a modern day student athlete kind of goes through things.”
Moving forward, Coach Baltzell hopes to continue fostering a positive team environment at the University, and hopes to stay around for a while.
“It really means a world to me [coaching at URI], now this is kind of the place where I see myself study for a long time,” Baltzell said.
When John Copeland retired, he left behind big shoes to fill. And While Baltzell hasn’t quite gotten there yet, many hope that he can replicate the success of the legendary Copeland.