Finlandia names new head coach for revived Lions Cross Country

Hancock, Mich. (WBUP) – Finlandia University will be adding to its slate of intercollegiate athletic programs this fall. Hired to lead the resurgence of Lions Cross Country in its first season since 2018 is Head Coach Tony Skiles.

Announcing the return of Lions Cross Country and Skiles as head coach was Athletic Director Curtis Wittenberg:

We are excited to announce Tony as our new head cross country coach and we look forward to introducing him to our community. He brings immense passion and energy for distance running, which will be needed as we bring back cross country to Finlandia Athletics. His ideas of a holistic approach to his student-athletes match up with Finlandia’s mission. We can’t wait to have his energy and excitement in our department.

With this hire, we officially announce that Finlandia will be sponsoring men’s and women’s cross country starting the fall 2022 semester. Not only has cross country been part of Finlandia’s strategic plan to help build enrollment, but with our location, it is a great fit.  The Keweenaw has outstanding trails for running and we feel it should be a destination for students interested in running cross country.

Prior to Finlandia, Skiles spent three years as head coach at Cottey College in Nevada, MO before taking the head coaching position at University of the Southwest, a private Christian university in Hobbs, New Mexico.

“The surrounding area is the ideal area to run in. The small college/town and how everyone is willing to help each other make [Finlandia] the perfect place to grow a strong program,” Skiles said. “Also, Finlandia has a Finnish culture and embraces it, and the Finnish have a long line of great distance runners. I want the team to learn about it and embrace it and represent the university, their family, and the long line of amazing Finnish runners.”

Skiles, who served as the first cross country coach in school history at Sierra Nevada College, brings to Finlandia the experience needed to build a program with strong foundations.

“Be patient and use each moment as a listen. Also, to set a healthy and competitive culture,” Skiles said. ”I truly believe college is the last step until these athletes enter the world without any safety nets and we as coaches need to make sure that they have the right tools to be successful when they leave us. I love the uniqueness of Finlandia and how it embraces the Finnish heritage it has. I am looking forward to working with the running community that Hancock has.”

Skiles holds bachelor’s degrees in history and political science from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in sports administration from Belhaven University. He is married to his wife Kristen and they have two children, Peter and Anna-Kat.

“Thank you to Curtis, President Johnson, and everyone that was able to make this happen for my family and I to join the Finlandia family.”

Throughout his collegiate coaching tenure, Skiles has made two NCAA Division II Championship appearances, won two Gulf South Conference titles and has coached a multitude of top performers including one All-American, 10 All-Gulf South Conference runners, two NCAA Division 3 National qualifiers, three NAIA Cross Country Nationals qualifiers, four ECAC individual qualifiers, five All-Southeast Regional performers and four Middle Atlantic Conference individual champions.