Lewis making impact for Coyote Track, receives multiple honors

Shaquelle Lewis had a firm answer ready when a coach at his high school in Kingston, Jamaica asked if he’d like to try out for the track team. The encounter occurred during summer tryouts for soccer.


“I was avoiding the track team and he was like ‘you should come and try out,'” said Lewis, now an assistant track and field coach at Kansas Wesleyan. “I said ‘I’m not going to run; I like to play soccer. I’m quick but I’m not track quick.'”


The response didn’t dissuade the coach who persisted and eventually prevailed. Lewis joined the track squad his 10th grade year and ultimately …


“Fell in love with throwing,” he said.


Lewis soon became one of the top young international competitors in the shot put. An All-America career (three times) at Vincennes University (Ind.) was next followed by two successful years at the University of Indianapolis before a torn pectoral muscle his senior year ended his competitive career.


Lewis wasn’t done with the sport, though.


Following KWU’s historic run at the Kansas Conference Indoor Championships last weekend in Wichita, Lewis was named the Men’s Indoor Track Assistant Coach of the Year. The Coyotes finished a school-best second in the team standings buoyed by Lewis’ throwers, most notably the shot putters who claimed the top three spots.


Lewis continued on to earn USTFCCCA (United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association) South Central Regional Coach of the Year announced by USTFCCCA earlier this week. He is now in the running for the national assistant coach of the year award, which will announced in March.


“It’s an honor, it’s something that I give God thanks for because it’s an opportunity where he’s brought me from Kingston, Jamaica all the way to this awesome town,” Lewis said. “I never expected to be here.”


Lewis’ journey to Salina is as unique as the Coyotes’ incredible rise in track and field under fourth-year head coach Kyle Hiser, who was chosen the Men’s Indoor Coach of the Year. KWU compiled 123 points in the KCAC meet, seven more than traditional KCAC track power Friends.


“When we first got here we had 18 student athletes, we got second to last (in the conference meet),” said Lewis who arrived at KWU in 2022 after he was hired by Hiser as a graduate assistant. “We were hoping to not get last place. We were coming back from the conference meet and I looked at coach Hiser and was like ‘what did I get myself into? This is hard.'”


They quickly rebuilt the program, though – KWU had 40 men and women entered in last weekend’s meet.


“I remember the first day and were looking at what equipment we had and we didn’t have a shot put for the men’s side of things because we’d never had those athletes before,” Hiser said.


They do now along with many others in most events.


“It’s the resources that the administration has given us and the people that I have on my staff, they’re the best in the conference, the best in the country,” Hiser said. “I think that’s why we’ve been able to take not a big step forward but a big leap forward.”


Lewis has been at the forefront. He coaches shot, discus, hammer, weight throw and javlin but has a standard approach to each of his athletes regardless of the event.


“I tell my athletes constantly don’t make the moment too big because at the end of the day it’s about competing and having fun,” he said. “If your mindset is to have fun while you’re competing you’re going to compete well and it’s going to trickle down to everybody.


“And you have to have a strong work ethic. If you have a goal that you set out to achieve it’s my job to get you to achieve that goal. But if you don’t work hard it’s hard for you to say that you’re going to achieve anything.”


Positivity also plays a key role.


“I’m a strong personality when it comes to positive energy,” Lewis said. “I’m a fan of Jon Gordon – my favorite book is The Energy Bus. I want to have a positive team and I believe that if an athlete has a positive mindset, then that positive mindset not only it affects them but it affects the person next to them.”


Successful coaching also requires backing off when necessary.


“I’ve had good coaches that have taught me this stuff,” he said. “It was more learning to step back as a person because I’m not the one that’s competing. Just allow the athletes to go and compete with freedom. They’re prepared for it because you prepared them during the week.”


Cole Parker (SR/Corning, Calif.) won the shot put Saturday with Keegan Lott (FR/Horton, Kan.) second and Dylan Worrell (SO/White City, Kan.) third – Parker, who has qualified for NAIA national, named the Men’s Co-Field Athlete of the Year. Also, Simeon Faagai (JR/Ponca City, Okla.) placed second in the weight throw and qualified for nationals while Cody Flax (JR/Culver, Kan.) was third, Parker fourth.


“Every time a Kansas Wesleyan thrower was in the (shot put) ring the whole arena heard it and knew it,” Hiser said. “They took that moment and just blew it out of water with their performances but then they poured that back into their teammates.


“After we won the 4×1 relay the first people there to congratulate them was our throws squad ready to pick them up and carry them off the track like they won the Super Bowl. That’s a testament to what coach Lewis has done to get that culture right.”


Lewis said recruiting posed the biggest challenge when he began his coaching career at KWU.


“That first year was interesting to say the least,” he said. “It was kind of hard for me to not take it personally. You’re saying everything nice; you’re doing everything nice and still the door slams shut.


“The second year I think I understood a little bit more that it’s about fitting the right personalities to what I want as a throws coach. To represent the program the way that I want my throwers to represent the program.”


Lewis’ primary passion and focus is track and field but he never lost his love for soccer. Chelsea of the English Premier League is his favorite team and has been for as long as he can remember. He seldom misses a match online or television.


“It’s real football,” he said with a smile.