Seasoned Cross Country Coach John Foss

By: Emily Lehner

John Foss, contributed by Roger Saxton
John Foss, contributed by Roger Saxton

John Foss had planned on attending Western Michigan University in the fall of 1979, but instead chose Marion College two weeks before the first day of classes. He joined the cross country team which was coached by Barry May. The time Foss spent at Marion College provided him with direction and success. He was well accomplished in the classroom and on the cross country course. Foss met his wife, Beth, during his freshman year at Marion College, and they were married before their senior year.

Foss began his educational journey as a business major. He then changed to Christian Ministries and then to Elementary Education. Finally, Foss landed on English Education.

He says, “Dr. Elder was a big part in my final major decision. I really enjoyed her classes.” However, after his last semester of student teaching, Foss says he learned that teaching high school English was not for him. “I graduated with a degree that I had no clue what I was going to do with, but along the way, I met many great people that I am still friends with today. Students find today that IWU is welcoming and friendly. This, too, is what I felt during my time here.”

Foss grew in his spiritual life as well during his time here. “When I arrived here, I had accepted The Lord, but I would say though that I had no ongoing walk with The Lord. I had some great mentors and coaches that led me spiritually. My professors and Beth were very much part of my spiritual growth,” he stated. During his time at Marion College, Foss recommitted his life to Christ and became more active in seeking The Lord.

Although Foss questioned whether his academic experience at Marion College would be useful post graduation, he mentioned that all of his educational experiences here have helped shape his life. Directly after graduating, Foss ran professionally for a running apparel company. He ran for this business part time, and also helped the business grow. His English Education degree helped the company create a catalog for their apparel. The company grew immensely in sale and eventually, Foss became the Vice President.

Coach Foss, contributed by Roger Saxton
Coach Foss, contributed by Roger Saxton

After working for the running company for quite some time, Foss attended graduate school at Ohio State University for Sports Information. Within this graduate degree, Foss found an excitement for the job opportunities he would now have.

Dr. Fratzke, the IWU Athletic Director at the time, called Foss with a job opportunity. At first, this job was a half-time position, which Foss declined. However, a position with the Triangle opened and gave Foss the opportunity to pair it with a coaching position. Foss accepted the job.

Currently, Foss holds the position of head Cross Country coach and recently retired from holding the head Track and Field coach position. He has played a key part in the spiritual and athletic development of hundreds of athletes throughout his years here.

When asked what God has taught him through coaching, Foss stated, “He cares about every aspect of our lives, and God doesn’t have the same hierarchy that we do. What is most important to us isn’t always most important to Him, and what He wants most for us is a relationship with Him.”

Foss’ coaching principles revolve around and reflect his desire to cultivate a deep relationship with God. He gives his undivided attention to the athletes in the IWU running program, teaching them to give God the glory for their running gifts and abilities. Because of his outlook and method of coaching, many have learned to view running as a joyful thing in their lives. Coach Foss’ athletes are most known for the smiles on their faces that remain there even in the midst of a difficult race.

As an athlete in the IWU Cross Country program, I think I speak for all of us when I say that I am honored to be coached by Coach Foss.

This Saturday, on February 11, Coach Foss will be inducted into the IWU Athletic Hall of Fame.


Written by Emily Lehner, writer for the Alumni Center and a sophomore Writing major at IWU. She is active on the cross country and track teams. She is passionate about using her writing skills to share the good news of Christ with others and writes often on her personal blog at

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