Track and field: Crandall steps down as Wadena-Deer Creek throwing coach
After logging over 25 years of coaching throwers, John Crandall is stepping down. Crandall coached several Wadena-Deer Creek throwers to record-breaking heights during his tenure.
WADENA – "Cran Daddy" is the nickname given to longtime Wadena-Deer Creek throwing coach John Crandall.
After 12 years with the Wolverines and over 25 years of coaching various athletes in the techniques and skills of shot put and throwing, "Cran Daddy" felt it was time to hang the hat on his long coaching career.
Crandall's main reason for his retirement is a lingering back issue.
"In 1995, I had back surgery done. It worked fine until 2010," Crandall said, "Since then, it has been slowly deteriorating to the point that I felt that I couldn't show the kids what I wanted them to see. I felt it would be best to get out and let Brad (Wollum), who has been working underneath me for 3-4 years, take over for me."
Crandall grew up in Hibbing and went to Hibbing High School and then to Hibbing Junior College, where he did shot put for a couple of years. From there, he went on to the University of Minnesota Duluth and graduated in 1970 with a major in geography and history. He eventually returned to UMD to get his master's in history in 1984.
From 1970-81, Crandall taught, coached track and worked with shot putters in Sebeka. He and his wife moved to Wadena in 1982 and have lived there ever since.
Crandall's love for shot put and discus started back in grade school.
"When I was in 7th grade, I placed fifth in a junior high track meet," he said.
That fifth-place finish started a lifelong love for throwing.
Marc Reynolds, the head track and field coach at WDC, said Crandall made an immediate impact with the throwers when he joined the team in 2010. One of the first was Logan Meyer, who went from not qualifying for the section meet in 2010 to being crowned Section 6A champion in the shot put and finished in 6th place in Class A at the state meet a year later.
Crandall described Meyer as a hard worker. Meyer added a third-place finish at the state meet in 2012 and currently holds the second-longest shot put throw in school history.
Ellie Miran, another of Crandall's athletes, holds the school records in the shot put at a distance of 38-feet, 4.5-inches, and discus at a distance of 124-feet, 1.5-inches.
Crandall described Miran as "a fantastic athlete." One of Crandall's favorite memories as a coach didn't happen on the field or at a meet, it was at Miran's wedding.
"I went to Ellie's wedding," he said. "We were talking, and she told me, 'I remember back in seventh grade, you took me to the records on the wall. You pointed to them and told me I could be on that wall.' She also told me she couldn't believe me at first. Well, she worked it out and did well."
Crandall helped girls like Kennedy and Lauryn Gravelle, Rachel Craig and Leah Spillman write their names in the WDC track and field record books with top 10 records in either shot put and discus. Spillman was an athlete that Crandall remembered in particular.
"Spillman was a real thin gal," he said. "I worked and worked with her, and finally, in her senior year, she blossomed. To see her place at sections, placing fifth or sixth, and to see her throw her best throw of her career, that was something else. Just to see her smile, it was something special."
One of Crandall's most recent success stories was Cooper Folkstead who started as a sophomore and improved every year.
He finished in fourth place in the state meet in 2019 but never saw his senior year because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
"That was really sad," Crandall said. "I thought he would win state in shot put and discus. That summer before, he went out to North Dakota State University for a throwing camp. I went out there to watch him and to listen to what the coach was telling him. I wanted to make sure there wasn't going to be any mix-up. I saw that every year he would improve. When I watched Cooper that summer, he was hitting 53, 54 feet. I knew that 2020 was going to be his year to bloom."
Folkestad went on to Concordia College in Moorhead, where he became the first Concordia College field athlete to earn All-American honors at an NCAA Indoor Meet since 1996. Crandall knew from the start that Folkestad would do well in college because of his continual improvement every year.
Crandall was part of the 2017 Section 6A True Team Champion boys team, which was the first time in WDC history a team was crowned section champions and qualified True Team. He was also a part of numerous Park Region Conference championship teams and helped the girls win their first-ever conference title in 2021.
Over two decades of coaching shot put and discus, Crandall mentioned the one thing that brought him back each and every year.
"The kids' success," Crandall said. "Watching them succeed, improve and trying to push those kids as hard as they wanted to work to reach the goals they wanted to get–that was my main thing. I enjoyed their shot put and discus, but it was watching my athletes be successful. That was my reward."
With Crandall leaving the track and field program, he handed the reins to Brad Wollum. Crandall mentored Wollum for the past three to four years and only has high praise for his successor.
"I let Brad work and slowly allowed him to take over," Crandall said. "He has done his research on techniques. Last year, he strictly worked with the discus throwers. He is enthusiastic. The kids really like him. He is innovative and always searching for new techniques and methods. He would come up to me and say, 'I saw this. You want to try this,' and I would say, 'Go ahead.' He's a progressive thinker as far as training goes for those kids. I am very confident he will do a good job."
The way Crandall held himself and his love for coaching and his athletes were unmatched. He touched the athletes with his knowledge of the sport, and his colleagues admired his work.
"Crandall is a very detail-minded person," said Norm Gallant, WDC's activities director. "I have seen him constantly work to improve the technique he teaches and help kids to get better. I would describe him as a man with a mind like a steel trap."
Gallant also said he will miss Crandall and his wisdom, attention to detail and genuine care for students.
"He has done a great job for our student-athletes, and the accolades they have accomplished are a direct reflection on a great coach," Gallant said.
Reynolds echoed Gallant's sentiment.
"Crandall has made a positive impact on many of our throwers and coaches the past 10-plus years," he said, "He has represented WDC on a high level and has always been a big advocate for athletes from WDC. We will miss having him around, but we hope he enjoys retirement as well as the warmth of Arizona in the winter."