Brian Diemer has been at the helm of Calvin’s cross country program for 36 years. For 34 of those years, he’s also been atop the MIAA.
Diemer has been the Calvin head men’s cross country coach since 1986 and a distance coach with the Calvin men’s and women’s track and field team since the spring of 1987.
In 2006, he added head women’s cross country coaching duties at Calvin to his responsibilities.
His list of accolades is long. He led the Calvin cross country program to 43 titles— more than any coach in MIAA history—34 with the men’s program and nine with the women’s program. Last fall he led the Calvin men’s team to its 34th consecutive MIAA title, the longest active championship streak in the MIAA.
Diemer also guided the Knights to national prominence. In men’s cross country, he
led Calvin to four national titles, winning crowns in 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2006.
He also led the men’s team to national runners-up finishes in 1998, 2001, 2002, and 2012. In addition, he helped the Calvin men win 28 Great Lakes Regional titles.
On the women’s side, he was at the helm for eight Great Lakes Regional titles and four top-four national finishes, including a second-place finish in 2008.
He coached countless All-Americans in both cross country and track and field. On the track, he coached five individual national champions, including three in his own specialty race: the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Diemer was named Great Lakes Regional Cross Country Coach of the Year 23 times—19 times in men’s cross country and four times in women’s cross country. In 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2006, he was named the NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year.
Diemer arrived at Calvin in the midst of a decorated international track and field career. He ran collegiately at the University of Michigan, where he ran cross country and track and field. As a senior, he captured Big Ten and later NCAA Division I national championships in the steeplechase, the event that propelled him to the Olympic level.
In 1984, he qualified for the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, winning a bronze medal in the steeplechase. He also qualified for the 1988 and 1992 Summer Games. In 1989 he won the Glen Cunningham Award, presented annually to the top distance runner in the U.S. In 1992 he served as captain of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team. Diemer was the gold medalist in the steeple- chase at the 1990 Goodwill Games and silver medalist in the 1995 Pan American games in Argentina. Diemer also won the silver medal at the U.S. Olympic Festival in 1995 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 2000, he was named to the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame.
When reflecting on his acceptance of the Calvin men’s cross country position in 1986, Diemer recalled his own recruitment by then Calvin director of athletics David Tuuk, who was retiring as Calvin’s acting head cross country coach.
“It seems like a short time ago that Coach David Tuuk asked if I would do the ‘hands on’ coaching his final two years until his retirement. My stint was to be a two-year term, with no chance of continuing because I was not faculty or staff at Calvin College. Apparently, some concessions were made, because I will be finishing 36 years of coaching at Calvin next month.”
In the fall of 1986, the Calvin men’s cross country team took a narrow second behind rival Hope for the MIAA title. The following fall, Calvin captured the title and ignited a historic streak. The only interruption was the canceled 2020 MIAA fall cross country season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I will miss the kids and challenging them to ‘strive for excellence’” reflected Diemer.
“They always gave me so much of their heart and effort. They would do the work I asked for, and they would start believing in themselves. To see that was and is a beautiful thing.
“I will miss working with the coaches who bought into this whole program. They have given so much of themselves for the kids and Calvin. To share the special moments together as coaches and athletes when goals and dreams were realized is one of the greatest feelings of all time.”
Calvin director of athletics Jim Timmer offered words of appreciation for Diemer’s work: “I can’t thank Brian enough for his tremendous work and leadership. I was a freshman student at Calvin the year he took over the men’s cross country program, and it has been amazing to see his work through the years. We wish him all the best in his retirement and salute Brian and his family for the tireless sacrifices that they have made for Calvin.”
Diemer will now turn his attention to his wife, Kerri; his four children, Kelsey, Kaitlin, McKenzie, and Matthew; as well as his growing number of grandchildren. He continues to co-own Everett’s Landscape, a west Michigan company that was started by his father, Everett Diemer, in 1956.
“I am really looking forward to a slower pace of responsibility in this next phase of life,” said Diemer. “My wife, Kerri, and I want to be readily available for each other and to see our kids and grandkids. It’s a phase of life we have always looked for- ward to, but it has indeed come faster than I can believe. Where did these 36 years go? It’s been great. Thanks for the opportunity to work at Calvin University and with the best group of kids in the world!”