A.G. Kruger’s story is not just about a three-time Olympian or a successful track and field coach. It’s about a man who found a home and a sense of belonging in a community that shaped his life–twice.
Born and raised in Iowa, Kruger was on the football and track and field teams as an undergraduate at Morningside College in Sioux City. After graduating in December 2001 with a degree in secondary education mathematics, he spent the spring semester helping out with the track team, substitute teaching and preparing for making a run for a place on the US team in the hammer throw for the next Olympics in 2004.
In the run-up to this latter goal, he threw at the USA Championships that spring, but admittedly didn’t do well. He realized a few things during the meet, chief among them: if the Olympic team was going to be a possibility, he needed some guidance.
And it was that recognition–along with a fateful connection he would make at the meet–that would change his life forever.
“I was talking to some of the Ashland folks,” he says. “I knew them since Morningside and Ashland were both D-II. When they asked me about my plans, I told them I had a teaching job lined up, that things with my then-girlfriend seemed to be going okay, and that I was preparing to maybe take over the family farm in the next few years.” One of the athletes he was talking to suggested he talk to Ashland’s head coach, Jud Logan, about what he should do to increase his chances of making the US National Team headed to Athens.
“The next thing I know,” Kruger says, “Jud Logan walks up and pulls me aside. I gave him the whole song and dance again–the plans I was making–and then he cuts me off and tells me what I should do instead.”
Jud was bringing a group of elite throwers to Ashland and thought Kruger might be a good fit. “He told me to drop everything and come to Ashland,” Kruger says.
And that’s what he did.
“I told my family that I think this is something I at least need to check out,” Kruger says. “They were supportive.”
After a 13-hour car ride to Ashland, Jud showed Kruger around, introduced him to fellow athletes and then took him on a tour of the facilities.
“If you’ll remember back then,” Kruger says, “Ashland’s facilities left something to be desired. There was only one weight room. Everything track-related happened in the fieldhouse. In fact, Jud drove us out to a farm–it was tall weeds, a concrete slab and a fence–and said that’s where we were going to throw.”
But despite the lack of sheen across the whole proposition, Kruger saw something special in all of it. “Jud sat me down and said, ‘I think you have what it takes to be successful. But if you come here it means that you’re all in, totally committed, willing to be coached. It means that you’re going to work harder than you ever have.’ And that did it. I was hooked.”
Kruger’s time training with world-class throwers in Ashland Elite paid off handsomely in terms of his athletic success. In three consecutive Olympics–Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012– he represented the United States in the hammer throw. Kruger has won a total of 14 United States national championships, indoor and outdoor combined. Additionally, he holds the world pentathlon record for men aged 40 to 45.
In 2008, Kruger became the strength coach for the Ashland University athletics program. However, in 2015, he was offered a position as a throws coach at the University of South Dakota. Despite being only an hour and a half from his hometown, it was a tough decision. But his mentor, Jud Logan, urged him to take the position, telling him that if he wanted to be a throws coach and get to the next level, he needed to seize the next challenge. Kruger’s wife Laura and their children remained in Ashland for a few months while he began his new role. Eventually, they joined him in Vermillion, SD, and together, they built a life there. During the next seven years, he led the South Dakota throws team to several Summit League women’s team championships. He also coached nine out of the twelve school records in throws and three Division I All-Americans.
The situation in South Dakota was a great fit, he says. It was good for their family.
But the community at Ashland University was more than just a place for him. It was here that he was able to flourish as an athlete and compete on a global stage. The university and its community had a significant role in shaping him into the person he is today. And it was calling him back.
When Jud Logan passed away unexpectedly in 2022, the repercussions were devastating for not just Ashland but also the national collegiate track and field community.
“That was one of the toughest times in my life,’ Kruger says. When the possibility arose to take over the head coaching job at Ashland, he rejected the idea initially. “I didn’t know if I could handle taking over for Jud,” he says. “So much of this program felt like his.”
The decision to apply came in a hotel room in California during a meet. “It struck me,” he says, remembering the advice and encouragement Logan had given him through the years. “Why did I go to South Dakota in the first place? What was I preparing for? It all became clear in that moment.”
What finally made the decision for him, he says, looked and sounded a lot like what drew him to Ashland in the first place.
“It’s the people here,” he says. “People here want to help out. To give.To make the lives of those around them better. What’s always been amazing here at Ashland, for me, is the amount of generous people.”
Along with the community, Kruger was also excited to take the next step in his career and push himself in new ways. While a strength and conditioning or throws coach is responsible for their group, as a head coach Kruger is now responsible for more than 140 student-athletes. He took it as a challenge–in the same way that Logan and the other coaches and athletes he’s spent his life around continually challenged him–to grow.
“You don’t ever get better doing the things you’re good at,” he says. “You only get better by doing the things you’re bad at. That’s the only way you grow.”
As the head coach of an elite track and field program like Ashland University, though, Kruger is quick to note that he could not do it on his own. Along with a great coaching staff, incredible student-athletes and an enormous amount of support from the administration and Ashland community, his biggest fans and supporters remain his wife–Dr. Laura Kruger–and two children Geo and Marina. “I couldn’t do anything,” he says, “without them. We love this community and it’s amazing to be back.”
Looking ahead, the future seems promising. With Kruger at the helm, Ashland University is primed for a new era of success and achievement. He is committed to continuing the legacy of his mentor, to pushing boundaries and striving for excellence. Most importantly, he is committed to nurturing young talent, helping them realize their potential, much like how his own potential was recognized and nurtured.
As he puts it, “I want to be the spark for someone that helps make them great.”
And under his leadership, the future of Ashland University track and field looks brighter than ever.