Tony Natali enters his 19th season as the skipper of the men’s track & field team. Prior to arriving at Bethel, Natali served as the head track & field coach at Marian University for eight seasons.
Under his leadership, the Pilots track & field program has blossomed from a small unit into a national powerhouse which fields anywhere from 75-100 athletes year in and year out. The philosophy that Natali leads his team by is simple – enjoy the journey, work as hard as we can to maximize the abilities God has given each one of us, and in return, give Him the glory for all that happens.
Natali’s Pilot Profile:
- NCCAA Indoor National Champions in 2009 & 2015
- NCCAA Outdoor National Champions in 2009
- NCCAA Indoor National Coaching Staff of the Year in 2009 & 2015
- NCCAA Outdoor National Coaching Staff of the Year in 2009
- Conference Champions in 2006 & 2009
- Conference Coach of the Year in 2004, 2006 & 2009
Athlete Accolades under Coach Natali:
- 2 Individual NAIA National Champions
- 1 Individual NAIA National Runner-up
- 89 Individual NCCAA National Champions
- 4 Wheeler Award (NCCAA Athlete of the Year) Winners
- 54 NAIA All-Americans
- 311 NCCAA All-Americans
- 15 NAIA Scholar-Athletes
- 36 NCCAA Scholar-Athletes
- 3 NCCAA National Championship, Athlete of the Meet Awards
- 104 Conference Champions
- 15 Conference Athletes of the Week (2006-present)
In addition to his role as the head coach for men’s and women’s track & field, Natali also serves as an assistant athletic director and as a men’s basketball assistant coach.
Tony and his wife, Andrea, have two daughters, Cassie (Horn) & Hannah.
A familiar face around Bethel track and field, after a successful career as a student-athlete followed by four and a half years on the coaching staff, Coach Maierle rejoined the Pilots in the summer of 2016 as a full-time assistant coach for BC after a season stint at Olivet Nazarene University in 2015-16.
As a student-athlete for the Pilots between 2007 and 2011, Maierle was a five-time NAIA All-American and a nine-time NCCAA All-American. During his career, he also tallied an impressive six NCCAA national titles, including five in the long jump and one as a member of the 4x100-meter relay team. As a member of the BC track & field team, Maierle helped the men's program to their first NCCAA team title during the 2009 indoor season, a feat that was repeated during the outdoor campaign. Currently, after half a decade has passed, Maierle still holds both of Bethel's long jump records (indoor & outdoor) with leaps of 7.35 and 7.49 meters respectively. He also owns the outdoor decathlon record of 5,453 total points.
During his first coaching stint with BC, the Pilots swept the 2015 Indoor NCCAA National Championship, bringing back to Mishawaka Bethel's 34th and 35th championship banners. Also dating back to the 2011-12 season when Maierle began coaching, he helped 20 NAIA All-Americans, three NCCAA National Champions, 26 NCCAA All-Americans and 11 Crossroads League Champions.
Most recently at ONU, Maierle helped the Tigers in 2016 land three NAIA All-Americans, four Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Champions and nine all-conference selections. At the NAIA National Championships, the ONU men landed a top-10 finish and concluded the season ranked fourth overall in the USTFCCCA combined indoor and outdoor rankings. The Olivet women were not far behind finishing sixth in their respective USTFCCCA ranking.
Danny Wilkerson, a 2004 graduate of Aquinas College, enters his 12th season as an assistant for the men’s and women’s track & field program.
While competing for Aquinas College, Wilkerson participated in six NAIA National Championships in both cross country and track combined. Professionally, Wilkerson earned his USATF Level 2 coaching certification in the sprints, jumps, hurdles, and combined events as well as other certifications in coaching and is part of the National Pole Vault staff.
In the world of professional track and field, Wilkerson has coached Mary Saxer who was ranked as a top 20 pole vaulter in the world in 2011 with a personal best of 15'1”. She was the 2012 London Olympic alternate and was a 2012 World Indoor Championship Finalist. Wilkerson also coached the 2010 US Outdoor and 2011 US Indoor National Champion in the pole vault, Mark Hollis, who was also a member of the 2011 World Outdoor Championship team. For his work, Wilkerson was honored with the title of USA High Performance National Pole Vault Coach of the Year for 2010.
Wilkerson’s Pilot Profile:
- NCCAA Indoor Track & Field Coaching Staff of the Year in 2009 & 2015 (Men)
- NCCAA Indoor Track & Field Coaching Staff of the Year in 2010, 2011 & 2015 (Women)
- NCCAA Outdoor Track & Field Coaching Staff of the Year in 2009
- NCCAA Outdoor Track & Field Coaching Staff of the Year in 2010 & 2011 (Women)
- Conference Champions in 2006 & 2009 (Men’s Track & Field)
- Conference Champions in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 & 2011 (Women’s Track & Field)
Athlete Accolades under Coach Wilkerson:
- 1 NAIA National Champion
- 30 NCCAA National Champions (12 – Men, 18 – Women)
- 46 NAIA All-Americans (16 – Men, 30 – Women)
- 138 NCCAA All-Americans (57 – Men, 81 – Women)
- 1 Co-SIDA Academic All-American
- 2 Outstanding Performers at NCCAA National Championships
- 39 Conference Champions (12 – Men, 27 – Women)
- 1 NAIA Track Athlete of the Week (Women)
- 11 Conference Athletes of the Week (5 – Men, 6 – Women)
Wilkerson also owns and operates a private athletic consulting company that works with the athletic development of high school, college, and professional athletes in a variety of sporting events.
Danny currently lives in South Bend.
Ryan Sommers enters his 12th year as the head coach for the men’s cross country team and an assistant coach for the men’s track & field team.
Sommers, an Indiana Wesleyan University alumnus, enjoys the character of Bethel College, finding it a distinct pleasure to be associated with a community that has a Christ-centered focus which reminds him of his alma mater. He utilizes a concept he terms FOCUS which centers on four principles:
1. Knowing why we do what we do
2. Loving God
3. Loving our teammates (and others around us)
4. Experiencing Godly joy in running.
The results have been quite astounding in the lives of the athletes. He cannot help but believe that it will continue to spill out to others around the team. These principles form the foundation of the program.
While competing for Indiana Wesleyan, Sommers earned NAIA All-American and NCCAA All-American status in cross country as well as Scholar-Athlete honors. In addition, he and his twin brother, Robert, were the Wheeler Award recipients at the NCCAA National Cross Country Championships in 1992. Their team placed 10th at the NAIA National Championships that same year. Coach Sommers also competed at the NAIA and NCCAA Track & Field Championships. He still holds the 800-meter school record at IWU and several of the top 50 performances in cross country. He attributes his success to God's blessings and the fortune of being a part of a strong team.
Ryan earned a Master's Degree in Human Development & Family Studies with a specialization in Marriage & Family Therapy from Colorado State University.
Sommers' Pilot Profile:
- NCCAA Indoor Track & Field Coaching Staff of the Year in 2009 & 2015
- NCCAA Outdoor Track & Field Coaching Staff of the Year in 2009
- NAIA Scholar Team in 2009, 2010, 2012 & 2014 (Cross Country)
- Conference Champions in 2006 & 2009 (Track & Field)
Athlete Accolades under Coach Sommers:
- 1 NCCAA National Champpions in 4x800 Relay (Track & Field)
- 3 NCCAA National Runners-up in 4x800 Relay (Track & Field)
- 1 NCCAA National Runner-up in DMR (Track & Field)
- 35 NCCAA All-Americans (Track & Field)
- 12 NAIA Scholar-Athletes (8 – Cross Country, 4 – Track & Field)
- 20 NCCAA Scholar-Athletes (8 – Cross Country, 12 – Track & Field)
- 2 Conference Champion (Track & Field)
- 2 All-Conference Selection (Cross Country)
- 3 Conference Athlete of the Week (2006-present) (1 – Cross Country, 2 – Track & Field)
Ryan and his wife, Linda, live in South Bend with their two daughters, Anika and Elin, and their dog, Bailey.
Marc McCown joined the BC track and field coaching staff in 2012 with a wealth of coaching experience at the high school level in New York and California. After a two-year stint at Churchville-Chili High School in Rochester, McCown joined the Maranatha High School coaching staff in Pasadena, California. While at Maranatha, he coached both individuals and teams to state titles as well as CIF Southern Section Championships.
In McCown’s fifth year at Maranatha, the boys’ program was able to dethrone McFarland High School from a five-year streak of winning the state title under the direction of coach Jim White. Coach White’s story was later depicted in the 2015 movie McFarland, USA.
McCown noted that he coaches because he values the relationships with the student-athletes, and he coaches so he has the right to speak into young people's lives about developing a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
After finishing a successful throwing career at Bethel College, Robert Rose rejoined the Pilots as an assistant throw coach in 2014.
During his four seasons with the Pilots, Rose captured two NCCAA individual national titles, one in the discus (2012) and one in shot put (2014). He also was the 2011 NCCAA National Runner-up in shot put. Overall, Rose picked up five NCCAA All-American honors with one coming during indoor competition (weight throw – 2014) and four at the outdoor championships (shot put 2011 & 2014 – discus 2012 & 2013).
As a member of the staff in 2015, the Pilots picked up a pair of NCCAA indoor national championships. Over the two-day event, the BC throwers captured an impressive 99 total points. In just two events, the women throwers earned 43 points and turned in two NCCAA individual national champion performances along with landing with four NCCAA All-Americans. On the men’s side, the squad earned 56 points, which was nearly half of the men’s total score. The men also produced two NCCAA national champions and added four NCCAA All-Americans to the team’s total.
Rose and his wife, Kristin, currently live in Mishawaka with their dog, Nala.
Upon graduation, Avante Newsome-Gunn was the fourth most decorated national champion in Bethel track and field history, and the South Bend native now lends her talent to Coach Natali as an assistant coach.
Newsome-Gunn picked up seven NCCAA national titles during her career in six different events, including individual sprints, relays and the long jump. In addition to those top honors, she also tallied an astonishing 21 nods as an NCCAA All-American coupled with her six NAIA All-American performances, five of which were in the long jump. Upon graduation, Newsome-Gunn littered the women’s track and field record book, appearing a total of 10 times headlined by both the indoor and outdoor long jump records (5.88 indoor & 5.84 outdoor) and accompanied by five records as a member of a relay and three indoor sprinting records.
As a team, the Pilots picked up two NCCAA national titles during Newsome-Gunn’s career and won one Crossroads League championship and finished as runners-up in 2012 and 2013.
Cassie Horn is entering her second season as a graduate assistant for the Bethel track and field program. After completing her undergraduate degree in exercise science and sports management at Bethel while competing on the track and field team, Horn returned to the program in 2015-16 while working toward her master’s degree in business.
As an assistant, Horn focuses in on a lot of behind the scenes work, including travel arrangements, trip planning, apparel orders and running social media accounts. She also plays a key role in running and assisting in practice.
As a student-athlete, Horn competed in sprints and in the javelin and was a member of the 2010 & 2011 women’s teams that captured both indoor and outdoor NCCAA national titles.