Cross Country’s Best “Pack” Leader: Meet Coach Dan Finanger

March 1, 2023

Author: The Crusader Staff Writer, Presslie Mariner

Coach Dan Finanger, a nationally-recognized distance running coach, is the head cross country and track and field coach here at the Abbey. He has coached for 32 years, including five years at the Abbey. He has coached more than 5,200 athletes across 16 states and sent four athletes to the 1996 and 2000 U.S. Olympic trials. 

In addition, Coach Dan coached the 1995 Boston Marathon team and served as director and head coach in international clinics in Saudi Arabia. He established his running camp, Finanger Running Adventure Camps, with the intent of promoting running in outdoor settings, such as the Cascade and the Rocky Mountains, as well as the Maine Coast.

Coach Dan began his running career when he was a sophomore in high school. He intended to play football; however, he started talking to some of the cross-country guys and decided to give the cross-country team a chance. He has loved the sport ever since! He would go on to run D3 at the Lutheran College in Iowa, where he was a part of seven conference championship teams, including four cross country and two-track. He also served as captain of the cross-country team during his senior year. He and his family moved from Minnesota to Charlotte in 2011, and he began coaching at Belmont Abbey in 2017. Some of the tactics he uses in order to ensure a healthy runner, physically, mentally, and spiritually, include combining the values of “body, mind, and soul.” Another one of his tactics includes grouping the men’s and women’s teams into “packs,” with each “pack” having a “pack leader” in order to ensure that no one is running alone, and it involves more team bonding!

Coach Dan has a firm Christian faith and believes that it provides him with direction and purpose in life. When asked about how he incorporates his faith into running, Coach Dan replied, “I believe that the freedom I receive from my running comes from God providing me that direction!”. Coach Dan has established a handshake on the team known as the “Abbey High Five.” God is the top corner of our hands, while family is at the lower corner, as well as friends and teammates. When you raise your hands above your head to do the high five, you put all of that above you. It shows our priorities and humbles us to say that others, including God, are more important.

The cross country and track teams are fortunate to have Coach Dan as their head coach. His positive attitude, optimism, and strong faith in the Lord have contributed to the overall kind and friendly environment here at the Abbey. Thank you, Coach, for all that you’ve done for us here at the Abbey, and here’s to making more memories and smiles on the team!

This article was originally posted in the Fall 2022, Issue 1 of The Crusader NewspaperDownload the full issue.