Record holder Kinnaird bolts for Oklahoma State

Some time between a Big Ten Indoor Track and Field championship and last week, Tre’tez Kinnaird lost his confidence.

Now he’s leaving Bloomington to find it.

The Indiana runner announced last week that he will transfer to Oklahoma State, leaving a program where he set three school records and also became a conference champion in the 800 meters. Kinnaird insists it was not a hasty decision, rather it was the build up from several months of displeasure and unhappiness at Indiana.

“I just felt that I really wasn’t happy here,” Kinnaird told The Herald-Times. “That’s honestly, overall, the main factor. I don’t want to talk negative about the program, because that’s the last thing I’m trying to do. I appreciated everything the program has done for me to get to where I am today, but I felt like, on both sides, there’s a lot of miscommunication. I felt like it was time for me to make a change.”

Kinnaird said there were a few incidents that soured his Indiana experience but declined to provide specifics. Through an IU spokesman, track and field coach Ron Helmer declined to comment.

“Indiana University will not comment on kids that aren’t on teams anymore,” assistant director for media relations Jeremy Rosenthal said. “We wish Tre’tez the best.”

Kinnaird was one of the few apparent bright spots in a program that appears on an uneven course. Following an eighth-place finish by the men and a ninth-place finish from the women at the 2014 Big Ten outdoor championships, Helmer removed associate head coach Jeff Huntoon and throws coach Jermaine Jones, who had each been part of his staff since he took control of Indiana’s program in 2007.

In their place, Helmer hired former Ohio State head coach Ed Beathea as associate coach and assigned him to sprints. Helmer also brought aboard former IU distance runner Andrew Poore to coach distance and serve as recruiting coordinator and hired Edgewood graduate Cory Martin to oversee throws.

The staff overhaul, Kinnaird said, took himself and others by surprise.

“The coaching changes came as a shock to a lot of people given how it was interpreted to the team,” he said. “I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I do feel like there were a lot of doubts within the team. … It’s hard because most schools don’t do coaching changes like that by cleaning out the whole staff.”

Kinnaird was among the most successful athletes competing in Helmer’s program as of last season. He won a USA Track and Field Junior National Championship last July, finishing the 800 with a time of 1:48.01 before taking sixth in the same event at the IAAF World Junior Championships in 1:47.13.

During the 2015 indoor season, Kinnaird won a Big Ten title in the 800 with a time of 1:48.89. He later became an All-American at the NCAA Championships with a time of 1:51.98.

But the outdoor season was not as fruitful for Kinnaird and the Hoosiers. The men’s and women’s teams each finished 12th in the Big Ten Championships before Kinnaird placed 36th in the 800 at the NCAA East Preliminary Round.

“It was really hard to have a lot of confidence and be happy,” Kinnaird said. “No disrespect to the program or anything, because I know different programs have different styles of coaching. I just felt like it wasn’t the right system for me, even though I put all my trust and all my effort into it. I felt like it wasn’t for me. That’s normal. The system is not going to be for everyone.”

Kinnaird said his relationship with Helmer was not what he wanted it to be. He said Helmer treated the team like a business, while Kinnaird wanted more personal connections with his coaching staff.

“He’s just trying to make you run fast,” Kinnaird said. “I get that, and I feel like that’s more of an old coaching style. Then again, there are a lot of coaches out here that are enthusiastic and can develop more than just a ‘I’m trying to make you fast’ relationship. Coming from high school and middle school, I always had coaches that I could bond with. I could have them as a father figure in my life, because my dad really wasn’t part of my life as much as I wanted him to be. I felt like I could come talk to those coaches about a lot of things I can’t talk to coach Helmer about. I think it’s OK, but then again with everything I’ve been through here, I don’t feel like it’s the right place for me.”

Oklahoma State offered a different feel for the Kentucky native. Cowboys coach Dave Smith was one of Kinnaird’s coaches at the 2014 World Juniors, and he felt there was more potential for a better relationship. Another consideration was the transfer to OSU of friend Brad Johnson, a former Minnesota sprinter who will join Kinnaird in Stillwater, Okla.

The two will be roommates and training partners.

“I don’t want it to seem like I’m a quitter, because that’s the last thing I am,” Kinnaird said. “I’m not a quitter. I just want to be happy. Everyone deserves to be happy. I feel like Oklahoma State is the best environment where I can be happy and ultimately be successful on the track and off the track.”