MARQUETTE - University of Miami assistant track and field coach Cheree Hicks had a good feeling about the facilities at Northern Michigan University - specifically the Superior Dome - after doing some research online prior to her interview Thursday for the vacant head coaching position on the Wildcat women's track and field squad.
After seeing what could possibly be her new home in person, those feelings were confirmed, and more.
"The dome, I tell you, the pictures don't do it justice," Hicks said. "It looks excellent."
Hicks was the third and final candidate to interview for the women's head track and field coaching position following interviews last week by College of St. Scholastica head coach Kirk Nauman and State University of New York-Oswego head coach David Thompson.
While Hicks is the only finalist without head coaching experience, she does have a leg up on the other two by being the lone candidate to coach at the NCAA Division I level.
Hicks - who was an All-American thrower at California State-Northridge and Syracuse - has coached the past seven seasons at Miami. Before that, she spent three years as an assistant at Syracuse and a season as an assistant at Portland State University in Oregon.
When it comes to facilities, Northern has better "digs" than some schools at the Div. I level, Hicks said.
One school NMU tops is Hicks' first stop in her college coaching career at PSU. While Northern lacks an outdoor training facility, PSU lacks both outdoor and indoor training grounds.
Located in the city's downtown, PSU's only training area for track and field is a 200-meter roof-top practice area - Hicks was hesitant to call it an actual track - that circled the tennis courts and was surrounded by nets.
It was at PSU from 2001-02 that Hicks learned to get creative with her throwers, using walls around campus. When it rained, which Hicks said often happens in Oregon, the throwers went indoors to the racquetball courts.
For Hicks, it's all about making adjustments, getting the job done and being creative.
"If you are creative enough, you can make it happen anywhere," she said. "At Cal State-Northridge, we didn't have a weight room or people to maintain the weight room. We were the field crew, the athletes were, so we had to prepare for home meets.
"Portland State, we didn't have a track. It was in the city in downtown Portland, so I've had to make those adjustments. Syracuse, we were indoors most of the time. You make that adjustment."
After 11 years as an assistant at the Div. I level, Hicks said she's prepared to become a head coach. She credits her mentor at Miami, Director of Men's and Women's Track and Field/Cross Country Amy Deem, with teaching her how to manage people and manage a team.
Deem was also the head women's coach for Team USA at the Olympic Games in London, and coaches like her did more than just let Hicks handle the throwers. Hicks has worked on fundraising efforts, community service projects, budgeting, travel plans and team banquets.
When it comes to building a complete track and field program, Hicks wants to do more than just coach a strong group of throwers like she has done at PSU, Syracuse, Miami and even at the Olympic and Paralympic level.
Hicks wants to build a strong all-around team that can contend in the GLIAC and nationally in Div. II.
"As a head coach, I want to make sure all the other event groups are covered, as well," Hicks said. "My goal is to have at least one big hitter in each group.
"From there, have the assisting ensemble. We try to at least do that, but I want to make sure every event is covered."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.