Ashland track and field coach Jud Logan has always been a winner.
He was as an athlete when he was a member of four U.S. Olympic teams, captaining the 1992 squad and setting the American record in the hammer throw. He was as an assistant coach for the Eagles, pumping out All-Americans, DII track and field record holders, and future U.S. Olympians. Since he took over as head coach in the 2005-06 season, he's continued that winning tradition, as the Eagles — the reigning 2018-19 DII men's indoor national champions — have seen 50 individual champions in both indoor and outdoor competition with Logan at the reign.
Now, there is one more big win he's working towards.
Logan was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia this past season. He's been successfully fighting the disease and is ready to get back and challenge for the DII outdoor championship in Texas this May.
"I'd had a persistent cough for about seven weeks," Logan told Dusty Sloan, Director of Athletic Communications in an interview for the school's website. "I'd never missed a day in 25 years from being sick. The kids on the team are like, 'coach, you need to get this checked out.' Then I started noticing some bruising on my body, and my daughter was like, 'You need to go get that checked out.' I put if off for about 10 days, and I got a really big bruise that I couldn't explain."
B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia is a rare disease in adults. According to Logan, 300 males over the age of 40 in the United States have been diagnosed with the disease. Logan is one of them.
"I went and saw Dr. (Christopher) Boyd," Logan said. "Dr. Boyd had me get a blood test, called me two hours later and said, 'Get to Samaritan Hospital immediately, your platelets are dangerously low.' They were at 18,000. Normal is 150,000-400,000.
"My wife (Jill) drove me up to UH in Cleveland. The next day, my platelets were down to 13,000, and they thought that I had this platelet disorder that was very treatable. Next thing you know, they did more blood work, and they did what they call a flow cytometry. Three hours later, the same doctor came back in, and I could tell by the look on his face that he did not have good news. And he said, 'you have B-Cell Leukemia.'"
Logan began phase one of chemo that was supposed to last four weeks in the hospital. That didn't last, however. Fourteen days later he was sent home.
"They said, 'You're going home. You need to be home, you need to be coaching, you need to be around your family, your kids.' The fact that I was home raised my spirits incredibly. And since the time that I've been home, at last count, (the platelets) now are over 300,000. I'm well on my way there."
INDOOR RECAP: Ashland wins the 2019 DII men's indoor title
During his time at home, Ashland's men's indoor track and field team did something it never had before. After three national runner-up campaigns under Logan, after all those individual champions, the men's team became national champions. Logan and his wife didn't miss a minute, as he paced the Cleveland Clinic, streaming the championships on his iPad.
"It feels partially fulfilled," Logan said. "I've always said, 'what would be the greatest part of winning a national championship?' I said, 'watching the kids' look on their faces when the confetti cannon goes off, and they get those national championship hats.' I wish I could have been a part of that. I FaceTimed the team immediately when they were allowed down on the infield, and there were tears, and I felt such jubilation.
Earlier this year, the Ashland community lost head women's soccer coach Danny Krispinsky in his fight with cancer. What Logan has quickly learned is that when all seems down, the Ashland community is there to pick you up. It always has been.
"The greatest thing has been the amount of cards I've gotten, small gifts," Logan said. Tiffany Roberts, (former AU national champion) has been making Jill and I dinner once a week after chemo. So we come home on a Monday, and there's this beautiful dinner waiting for us when we get home, whatever time it is. And all the text messages and social media inboxes, I've done my best to get back to everyone.
"I have my Ashland family, which takes in the 90 people on our track and field team to the administration to the staff to across campus, then you have the international throwing community. I guess I didn't plan on being overwhelmed as much with the messages, but I certainly know that I've been blessed to have met so many good people in my life, that I knew some of them would be reaching out, I just didn't think that many."
Associate head coach Ernie Clark has stepped up in Logan's stead. While Logan never envisioned this happening when he asked Director of Athletics Al King to make Clark his right-hand man, he's never been more comfortable with someone else taking the lead.
"When I got sick and went into the hospital, I realized this could be a while. I had absolutely no concerns that our kids would be taken care of, that he would have a great leadership and a vision, and that he would keep the kids calm at nationals. And when I talked to my throwers, they said that was the biggest thing he did was just keep everyone calm and be positive.
"There was never a 'Gipper' speech, and that's the only thing that I told Ernie. I told him, 'do not turn this into let's do this for coach Logan.' I said that will blow up. With five days to go to nationals when I found out, I wasn't going to call the team and go, 'OK guys, I told you I'd update you. I have leukemia.' So I kept that from them for five or six days, and they appreciated that I did that.
"Ernie just did a fabulous job. He's somebody that I hope is here long enough to eventually take over the program from me, and then hire one of my former throwers, which could be the greatest contested throws coach position job interviews. That time's not here now, so we're just taking that one week at a time, one meet at a time, one season at a time."
Logan has learned a lot in his fight. One thing he's learned is that while he has a long way to go, there's no way he's missing another national championship.
"This is a process. This is a journey. It is not a sprint. Their whole thing is, even though they believe they caught it early, they want to make sure that they do the full protocol, which could last anywhere from 8-15 months. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to conference, I'm not going to NCAAs, it doesn't mean I'm not coaching my kids every day."