Track and Field: Brainerd High School hires new girls track coach

Ashley Rutman will replace Howie Jacobs as Brainerd's girls track coach

Ashley Rutman was hired as the new girls track coach for Brainerd High School. Last year she served as an assistant to Howie Jacobs who recently retired. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch.

When Brainerd High School Activities Director Charlie Campbell hired Ashley Rutman as the new girls track coach for the Warriors, he knew what he was getting.

“Her ability to help kids see beyond the right here and right now and see beyond what they are currently doing is a great gift that she brings to our program,” Campbell said.

Rutman replaces Howie Jacobs, who retired this year after spending over 30 years at Brainerd High School as a track coach, the last four years as head coach of the girls track team. Rutman spent last year as an assistant to Jacobs, specializing with the long distance runners.

Her athletes enjoyed having her join in with them in their workouts and the encouragement she gave them, Jacobs said.

“She’s young enough she can still run the workouts with the kids,” he said. “While running she’ll tell them what to do and it’s really cool to watch.”


Rutman ran track in college at Gustavus Adolphus College. She was an All-American in the 800-meter race her senior year.

“Track and field has been a lifesaver for me,” she said. “It’s been a way for me to connect with people who have the same values of me and being a track athlete help better understand who I am.”

As a senior in college, Rutman wanted to make the national outdoor meet. The year before she went to the national meet as a spectator and kept the wristband as motivation. She wasn’t making it as a 400-meter runner and so her coach for her senior year moved her to the 800. When things got tough early in the season she would look down at the wristband to stay committed to the goal.

Before coming to Brainerd, Rutman coached track and field for a few years in Hopkins, where she discovered a new passion for the sport. She wants to build a community of runners in Brainerd and get her students excited about track and field.

“Track and field events play into a lot of other activities kids play like soccer,” she said. “Track and field can be a background sport and I am excited to make it a sport kids really want to join.”

Rutman said she tries to bring that experience she had in college to her coaching. When she coached the Brainerd sprinters last year for sections she decided to reshuffle the order for the girl’s relay. They needed a good heat to get a section medal.

“They were in the slow heat,” Rutman said. “I said, ‘You have the ability to get on the podium and you can't just race the girls in your heat.’”

After winning the slow heat, Rutman and the relay team watched as the fast heat finished and it became apparent they would finish sixth, as their coach said.


“The shear joy and excitement coming out of my athletes’ mouths in something I will never forget,” she said.

Rutman’s husband Brady grew up in Brainerd and also helps out with practices when he can. Jacobs joked that hiring Rutman meant hiring two coaches. Rutman has three children and is a school counselor at Forestview Middle School in Baxter. The support she got from Jacobs last year and in taking the job gives her confidence about being a head coach for the first time.

“I have big shoes to fill,” she said. “I will do my best to lead the program in a positive way.”

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