Dave Nielsen awarded Spirit of the Games

For Immediate Release
Date: January 20, 2016
Contact: Courtney Lee, (208) 339-6813
E-mail: media@simplotgames.com
Dave Nielsen awarded Spirit of the Games
Idaho State University head track and field coach honored
Pocatello, Idaho – Dave Nielsen has not only dedicated the past 33 years to Idaho State University’s track and field program as their head coach, but he has also been passionately involved with the J.R. Simplot Games for 36 years and counting.
After three decades of involvement with Simplot Games, Nielsen has received the 2016 Spirit of the Games Award. Established in 2009, the Spirit of the Games Award is presented in memory of J.R. Simplot, in recognition of distinguished commitment to Simplot Games. Nielsen feels a sense of pride being a part of the Games.
“I feel honored to be a part of it,” Nielsen said. “It’s due to the work that the Simplot Corporation has put into it and the resources they have provided. It’s truly an honor to see so many high school athletes come to Pocatello. It’s a great thing for the community.”
Nielsen has countless memories of Simplot Games, including one vivid memory of the time he almost lit his hair on fire. A new device had come out that could optically pick up the flash of the starter gun instead of having the starters drag around long cables that were linked to the Accutrack.  Nielsen was having trouble ordering the special “pyro-flash” shells for the gun that year so he had what he said was the bright idea to load his own shells. In a test shot at the Games, the shell he loaded apparently was not packed well, and burning material flew up in the air and landed on top of his head. It’s safe to assume that he no longer loads the blank starter shells.
Nielsen coached many great athletes while at ISU including Olympic gold medalist Stacy Dragila.  Dragila was not surprised that Nielsen had been chosen for this award. She spoke of Nielsen being an inspiration throughout her athletic career.
When Nielsen began talking to Dragila about training for the Olympics, she thought she wouldn’t have a chance considering that most Olympics athletes train their whole lives to be a part of the Olympics. At 23 years old she began training to become an Olympic athlete all because Nielsen said, “Why can’t it be you?”
Dragila said Nielsen has always given opportunities to the underdog athlete that no one else believed in. In his mind, everyone deserved a chance to be great.
Dragila also said some of her fondest memories with Nielsen are during the summer training sessions they had together. While all of the other athletes were home for the summer, she had the opportunity to have Nielson as her one-on-one training partner.
“I grew the most as an athlete when training with Dave, we kept it fun,” Dragila said. “Having fun and working hard was how we went into every practice.”
Although Nielsen’s resume suggests he could be the head track and field coach for any team, anywhere, he has continued passionately working with Idaho State University athletes and Simplot Games for decades. Nielsen’s hard work was not only because of his love of track and field, but also because of the talented athletes that he has been able to work so closely with over the years.
“I am honored and flattered to receive this award. I may even be embarrassed,” Nielsen said. “It is such a nice thing for them to do, I hope I am deserving.”  
For Dragila, hundreds of other athletes he has coached, and thousands of athletes he has influenced through his service to this event, it’s clear that Nielsen’s humble and driven personality truly exemplify the Spirit of the Games—and that is exactly why he does deserve this award.
More than 2,000 athletes will come from across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Australia to participate in the 38th annual Simplot Games. Simplot Games remains the nation’s premier high school indoor track and field event. Sponsored by the J.R. Simplot Company since 1979, the Simplot Games are held at Idaho State University’s Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho.
For more information on Simplot Games, please visit our website at www.simplotgames.com. You may also contact Lisa Woodland at (208) 235-5673 or Simplot Games Media Team at media@simplotgames.com.
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