The Lake Holcombe/Cornell track and field team, like many, opened up its 2016 season on Monday with its first day of practice.
And it did so with a coach fresh off of earning one of the state’s top honors.
Knights co-coach Jacob Ebner was honored recently as a Wisconsin Track Coaches Association District Region Coach of the Year for the 2015 season, one of four coaches statewide to earn the honor.
Ebner, who is entering his fifth season as a co-coach along with Tim Sime with Lake Holcombe/Cornell, was honored at the organization’s convention last month.
“I attribute a lot of the success to the kids and the parents,” Ebner said. “I’ve had groups before that weren’t willing to go through and put in the work that we ask out of the kids. Without the groups of kids we have now and without the support of the parents there’s no way I would’ve even had the criteria necessary to be nominated for this award.”
Longtime Cornell track coach Eino Martino was also honored at the convention as he was enshrined into the organization’s hall of fame.
Ebner attended Cameron High School, but was unable to participate in track and field with the Comets until his junior season due to the school not having a varsity program. He went to state in cross country as a sophomore and also ran in several AAU track meets before helping to spark interest in track at his alma mater. After Cameron began offering the program, Ebner went to state twice before graduating and attending UW-Eau Claire, where he ran on the cross country and track and field teams.
It was during his time at UW-Eau Claire that Ebner learned from coach Chip Schneider, taking many of Schneider’s training tips and strategies and applying them with the Knights at the high school level.
Following his graduation from UW-Eau Claire, Ebner was hired at Lake Holcombe in 2007 and worked for three years as an assistant track coach under Sime before coaching the Cornell track team in 2011 during its final season before combining with Lake Holcombe.
Ebner and Sime were aware of the upcoming co-op and wanted to do all they could to help get it going on the right foot.
Fierce rivals in many sports, Lake Holcombe and Cornell have began co-oping sports recently with the track team being one of the first to do so. The team had great success out of the gates with the boys team winning a Lakeland Conference championship in 2012.
“I didn’t think we would be as successful as we were that first year because we only had 13 boys that were active at the end of the season,” Ebner said. “It just clicked for us at the end of that year.”
Both teams would win the conference championship in 2013 and follow that up with second-place finishes at regionals.
Since coming together, the Lake Holcombe/Cornell program has been dominant in the Lakeland Conference with the boys and girls each winning three team titles in their first four years together. The program has been represented at the state meet in each of its first four seasons.
Sime said Ebner is a fierce competitor, but one that is organized and knows how to utilize the athletes he has in his program while getting more to join in.
“The best thing you can say about Jake is he gets the kids out (for track) and puts them in place where they can succeed and I think that helps grow the program,” Sime said. “People see that the kids are coming out and they’re doing well and that draws more to the program and that keeps it growing.”
Ebner was told he won the award last November by former Gilman coach Craig Shepard, who works with WISTCA. Ebner admitted he was surprised.
But Sime wasn’t.
“He’s what a good coach should be,” Sime said of Ebner.