MERCER - Training without a track and having limited space makes life tough for a track team. Those are some of the challenges that the Mercer Tigers face each year.
Story By Mark Spillane
Overcoming them can be difficult at times. But for one family, it's just part of who they are.
Bob Schenk has coached track and field for nearly four decades.
"I can't give up, I still think I have something I can offer the kids," said Schenk.
For 39 years, Schenk has offered guidance and wisdom to hundreds of athletes.
But he almost lost that privilege completely just last year.
"A year ago at this time, I could barely walk 10 feet," said Schenk.
Heart complications forced Schenk to undergo major surgery, and step down as Mercer's head coach.
"I didn't know if I'd ever be able to do anything again," said Schenk.
But after successful surgery, and a long rehab, Schenk is back to help Mercer's new coach, who he knows pretty well.
"He coached me in volleyball and in track in high school, it's always just a family affair," said Mercer Head Coach Robyn Schoeneman.
Schenk's daughter, Robyn, now leads the Tigers, with her dad helping out.
"It's a really good experience, and it's something that will last me, my memories will last me a lifetime," said Schoeneman.
They're memories that involve not two, but three generations.
"He coached my mom, he's coached me. It's great," said Mercer sophomore Aubrey Schoeneman.
With Schenk, her grandfather, as a long-time coach, Schoeneman, says her athletics and family life have always blended together.
"It's what we've known for so long, it's an everyday thing," said Aubrey Schoeneman.
It's an everyday thing that doesn't come without disagreements between the current and former head coaches.
"She has her own ways, and she's stubborn in some ways," said Schenk.
Stubborn or not, Schoeneman says this family affair involves more than just those connected by blood.
"We're one big family. Being a part of that is really special for me and it's a great experience," Robyn Schoeneman. "And I love these kids like they're my own."
Schenk coached at Mercer in the early 1980s.
He then coached for more than 20 years in the Chicago area and has been coaching back in Mercer for the last 10 years.
The Tigers competed in an invitational meet at Northland Pines on Thursday.