On Wednesday, April 12, cross country runner Joe Coffey ’17 and swimmer Claire Walters ’17 received the Dave Hauck Award, an honor given to senior student-athletes who have demonstrated academic achievement and community service in addition to athletic prowess. The duo became the ninth and tenth recipients of the award, respectively, joining Abbey Schnaith ’16 and Paul Escher ’16 as the only co-winners since the honor was established in 2010.
The annual recognition was created to honor Dave Hauck, a legend in Ole athletics during the last half century. After joining the St. Olaf staff in 1966 as a coach for cross country, swimming and track and field, Hauck also spent brief stints of his career coaching Ole football, golf and gymnastics. However, his legacy rests primarily with the swim and dive teams, as he coached St. Olaf to a combined 44 MIAC championships during his tenure with the college. He was later promoted to professor in 1995 and, along with his son, Bob Hauck ’87, continued to guide Ole swimmers to success. The father-son coaching duo were named the NCAA Division III Men’s Swimming Coaches of the Year in 2009, exemplifying the well-roundedness that Division III sports encourage and that St. Olaf athletes continually embody.
Coffey and Walters are two such athletes. Coffey, a runner-up at the 2017 NCAA indoor track and field championships, winner of three individual conference titles and the 2016 MIAC cross country athlete of the year, currently holds the school record for times in the 1,000 meter relay. During his four years at St. Olaf, Coffey has epitomized hard work ethic and drive for self-improvement, becoming one of the most celebrated and decorated Ole athletes in history.
Beyond the race track, Coffey has constantly pursued excellence in academics and selflessness through community work. A nine-time MIAC academic all-conference nominee, he has made the Dean’s List during each of his semesters at St. Olaf and served as a member of the Honor Council. During the summer of 2016, Coffey volunteered as an English teacher in Qingdao, China as a Freeman-Asia Institute Scholar, an experience that inspired him to volunteer at elementary schools in the Northfield area. Coffey’s academic acumen and altruistic service as an educator embody the type of versatility so highly valued in Division III athletes.
Walters, an equally deserving recipient of the award, has left extraordinary marks in the record book for St. Olaf swimming. An All-MIAC and NCAA qualifying athlete during her final three seasons, Walters was named team MVP during her senior year, setting four individual school records in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 200 butterfly. She was equally excellent as a teammate, helping the 2017 Oles to a 200 medley relay race that ranks as St. Olaf’s fastest time in history.
“I had such an incredible experience with my coaches, my teammates and my professors all supporting me,” Walters said. “My coaches have had a massive impact on my athletic experience as well as my personal growth. I also owe a great deal to my teammates as they’ve grown to be more of a family to me … I’ve always been able to count on my teammates for laughter and inspiration through the hardest parts of the season.”
In addition to her remarkable achievements in the pool, Walters has demonstrated commendable philanthropy through numerous fundraisers to support early childhood education programs, healthcare availability and maternal assistance.
“Having economic status being the deciding factor determining a child’s health and education is a terrible reality in America, a reality that doesn’t exist in most developed countries,” Walters said. “I work primarily in raising awareness within the community, as well as mobilization efforts regarding inequities for parental provisions and childcare in America.”
Like Coffey, she has also provided tremendous support as an educator, establishing a swim school that offers free lessons for disadvantaged children and volunteering in local elementary schools to introduce conflict resolution strategies.
“We targeted these swim lessons at kids whose families would otherwise be unable to afford swim lessons,” Walters said. “There was a huge outpouring of kids right from the get-go, indicating that there was a huge need for what we were providing. This program was incredibly rewarding in terms of witnessing the transformation in kids’ abilities and confidence in just a week.”
Demonstrating academic versatility in addition to their elite athletic talents, Coffey and Walters are more than deserving recipients of the Dave Hauck award, inspirational models for all DIII athletes to emulate.