Primeau brings international flavour to TWU track program

Primeau brings international flavour to TWU track program
By Howard Tsumura - Vancouver Province
LINK to Province site and story

PHOTO:New TWU head track and field coach Laurier Primeau (right) works with top cross-country recruit Blair Johnston easrlier this week at McLeod Stadium in Langley. (Ric Ernst, PNG)

LANGLEY -- As a former hurdler on the Canadian senior national team for the better part of the 1990s, Laurier Primeau showed an affinity for taking big leaps and for hitting the ground running.

It's an ethos that has taken the Surrey native to competitions, both as a competitor and coach, all over the world. But it's also one that has delivered him back home after spending much of the past two years as the head coach of Scotland's national track and field program.

These days, the 41-year-old Primeau is in a much more comfortable place as the newly-hired head coach of both the cross-country and track and field programs at Langley's Trinity Western University.

Yet Primeau is quick to admit that despite the challenges of trying to raise a young family in a new country with a demanding travel schedule, his time spent in the United Kingdom has broadened his scope of understanding as it pertains to his newest goal of trying to build the Spartans into a CIS championship-contending program.

"I have come back a much more learned coach," Primeau said last week of life in Glasgow with his wife Gladys, and sons Luc (four) and Marcus (one). "Professionally, it was an excellent opportunity and I have no regrets going. But it was a challenge having two young children and me being away so much and us not yet having a support network of friends."

The big leap back across the pond from Glasgow to Langley now behind him, Primeau has once again hit the ground running as he sets in place the pieces he hopes will be the foundation of his program.

"My tact since the beginning has been to make sure we had one cornerstone to build around in each of our four sports," says Primeau, of the men's and women's cross country and track and field teams.

To that end, Primeau has delivered a stellar recruiting class to Langley, one which draws both on his deep roots in B.C. and his newfound connections in the United Kingdom.

Trinity Western will look to make a statement on the trails this fall with former White Rock Christian Academy middle-distance standout Blair Johnston and Dawson Creek native Fiona Benson, the latter having represented Canada at the 2011 World Junior Championships in Spain.

And on the track, Primeau has recruited two of Scotland's top young athletes. Glasgow's Callum Innes is a versatile sprinter, hurdler (14.16 in 110-metres) and jumper, while Edinburgh's Emma Nuttall, at the age of 19, took gold in the high jump at the 2011 Scottish senior championships (1.83 metres).

"To be able to bring in that kind of talent right away has spurred interest from others," admits Primeau. "To have athletes like that makes (TWU) immediately more attractive to others."

And what was it about TWU that attracted Primeau, who prior to leading Scotland to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, served overlapping stints as an assistant with the national team and UBC, and as the head coach of the Thunderbirds Club and the St. George's high school program?

"There is an emotional, academic and spiritual development here that is very much a part of the holistic person," says Primeau, who in the early 1990s twice beat cancer while in the prime of his competitive career. "We are more than just a university that wants to develop (athletes) physically. That is evidenced by the things that our teams do."

Like the men's soccer team that just came back from Africa where it helped dig wells to create clean drinking water, and the women's volleyball team which helped build houses during a mission to Paraguay.

On a smaller but no less important scale, Primeau has pointed his program in a similar direction, collecting used track spikes and sending them to a small Queen Charlotte Islands' school.

And now, back in his old stomping grounds, the guy who started his coaching career just two years out of high school in 1990, and has now coached in parts of the past three decades, has started to experience what coming full circle truly means, especially when he's walking around a track.

Recently, as Primeau scouted the talent at the Fraser Valley championship meet in Coquitlam, he saw a familiar face.

"I coached this girl, Dionne Brown, the first year I was coaching (at Surrey's Queen Elizabeth Secondary) in 1990, and one day, when I was at the Valleys, she walks by," laughed Primeau. "She was off to help her 18-year-old son get ready for the 100-metre heats. I am feeling old."

But still ready each day to take that leap and hit the ground running.

Last Updated: 2012-03-07
Author: Mark Janzen