Maroon blood runs in Lutzke family of cross-country runners

Junior cross-country runner Matt Lutzke and his mother Karen Lutzke share the common bond of running. Karen was the women's cross-country and track and field head coach from 2003-2009. Matt aims to help the Chippewas win a Mid-American Conference title this weekend in Mucie Ind. (Andrew Kuhn/Assistant Photo Editor)

Matt Lutzke came to Central Michigan in 2008 with an already impressive resume.

He has lettered four years in cross-country and track in high school.

He was a three-time all-state in cross-country, three-time Lansing State Journal Dream Team selection, two-time team state champion in cross-country, five-time all-state in track as well as a seven-time league champion. He also was part of the National Honor Society and class president.

But there is somebody close to him whose resume outdoes his.

With all these accomplishments already under his belt, who could possibly best him?

His mother.

Karen Lutzke has a long list of accomplishments that begins with her time running at Michigan State University. Karen was a two-time All-American and won a Big Ten Conference championship.

In 1999, Karen brought her success to CMU as an assistant coach. From 2003 to 2009, Karen served as the head coach for women’s cross-country and track. Karen coached CMU to three Mid-American Conference titles, and coached 30 All-Mid-American Conference runners.

“She was an All-American at Michigan State, even one time for me and I would be pretty happy with that,” he said. “It’s something I look at and go ‘Hey, I have some of these genetics, why can’t I do one of these things?’”

Matt’s love for running began when he first saw the 1996 Olympics.

“I remember seeing the runners and thinking that it was so cool and I wanted to be like those guys,” he said.

Karen has ties with the Olympics. Karen was an Olympics trail qualifier in 1984 and 1988.

As a child, Matt has memories of growing up on the track and cross-country courses, helping his parents recruit or rake sand pits.

Karen remembers seeing her son's talent first start showing during a road race.

“I think he was eight when he ran a road race,” she said. “They had a kid run one mile every June and he would run that,” Karen said. “He was good at it and he would like to do it. With some kids, when they do fun runs they will walk, jog, walk-jog, but with Matt, he would work hard. We knew he was going to be good at running.”

While growing up at Williamston High School, Matt enjoyed the road races.


Racing Mom

It was one of these road races back in middle school where Matt first achieved one of his goals: Beating his mother in a race.

“I remember back in middle school, she was kicking my butt and that was always my goal, to get closer and closer every time,” Matt said. “I just remember this one race, I didn’t even see her. ‘I was like wow, you must have been really far ahead of me.’ She told me, 'No I had a bad race and you beat me.'”

Matt hasn’t lost to his mom since.

“I don’t think she has beaten me since, but she had a good number of years where she was beating me,” he said.

Karen won three MAC Coach of the Year honors at CMU.

Her top target for the class of 2008 was her son.

“His father and I encouraged him to go where he wanted to go and at the same time there were a lot of advantages for him to go to CMU,” Karen said. “I don’t think he would have been happy going to another MAC school, as far as Central goes, I think it was a good choice for him.”

As a college athlete, many things can stress out a runner.

Matt knows he only needs to ask his mom for advice when these things happen.

“I ask her a lot of questions, if I’m injured or have aches and pains, usually she has had it before,” he said.

CMU assistant coach Matt Kaczor loves the fact that Matt came from a coaching family.

When Matt came to CMU as a freshman, Kaczor knew exactly what he would be  — a coach’s dream.

“It’s real simple with him, he understands the nuts and the bolts of game planning of what he needs to be doing to get himself ready,” Kaczor said. “He is probably the easiest guy to coach, so that’s what makes it beneficial.”

Like mother, like son, both Lutzke’s share the same running traits.

Although Karen is quick to point out that Matt is more stubborn than her.

“We are both very competitive, but he is a lot more stubborn than I am,” she said. “But sometimes you have to be stubborn. If he wants to do something, he is going to do it. He is a good leader, a good role model and he makes good choices. Running is not just about being on the course, it’s about lifelong choices.”

Running isn’t something the Lutzke’s share as a hobby, it’s a passion and a bond.

“I think it’s really helped because we have running in common,” Karen said. “Not just about us running, but other people, when we watch it on TV or read about it.”

Since 2009, Karen has moved on to become the head coach of Olivet College’s women’s cross-country and track teams.

Matt, now a junior, is one of CMU’s top runners.

He still strives for that All-American status that his mother holds as CMU heads into the MAC Championships this weekend.

Matt knows that choosing CMU was one of the best choices he’s made.

“I like my coaches and the teammates are pretty much the reason I came here, he said. “I saw guys that wanted to win and a program that wanted to succeed.”



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