Dennis Mitchell, one of the longest-tenured coaches in the league and a 24-time Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year, is in his 22nd season at The University of Akron in 2017.
In all, he has received the league's top coaching honor 12 times for his women's teams and 12 times for his men's Teams. Mitchell has earned Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year recognition from the USTFCCCA on six occasions; twice for the women's teams and four times for men's teams.
Known for his high-energy home track meets, Mitchell has not only made Akron's Stile Athletics Field House the home of Mid-American Champions, but a destination for some of the top indoor talent in the northeast United States with the annual Akron Invitational.
Since 1998, Mitchell's teams have produced 42 All-Americans (31 first-team), who have garnered a total of 103 All-America honors. Of that esteemed group, five have gone on to win NCAA Championships. Shawn Barber is a three-time NCAA Champion winning the indoor and outdoor pole vault crowns in 2015 as well as the 2014 indoor title. Christi Smith captured the heptathlon crown in 2000, Stevi Large won the hammer in 2009, while Annika Roloff won the 2014 outdoor pole vault title.
Clayton Murphy became the Zips first-ever NCAA Champion in a running event when he captured the 800-meter crown at the 2016 NCAA Indoor Championships. He then went on to earn the 1,500-meter title at the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Additionally, a total of 193 Academic All-MAC honors have been bestowed upon Akron student-athletes during Mitchell's tenure, including Mary Varga, a three-time CoSIDA Academic All-American, seven-time MAC Champion and five-time USTFCCCA All-American.
A year ago, high jumper Claudia Garcia Jou, the Zips' indoor and outdoor school record holder, was selected as a CoSIDA First-Team Academic All-America honoree.
This past summer a trio of Zips in Barber, Murphy and Roloff represented the Zips and their respective home countries in the XXXI Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Murphy shined on the worldwide stage earning the bronze medalist in the 800 meters. Murphy's finishing kick propelled him to a become the first United States men's 800-meter runner to win an Olympic medal since 1992, chasing down the bronze medal over the final 100 meters on the strength of the fifth-fastest time, 1:42.93, in American history.
Murphy was able to shatter his previous career-best time of 1:44.30 set in the semifinal round, and enabled him to be the third-fastest American ever. Murphy became the first United States men's runner to win an Olympic 800-meter medal since Gray in Barcelona, Spain in 1992, three years before Murphy was born.
Battling through tough weather conditions in the men's pole vault final Barber surpassed 18-0.50 (5.50m) to place 10th in his first Olympics.
In qualifying round competition in the women's pole vault, Roloff eclipsed 14-7.25 (4.45m) on her third and final attempt at the mark en route to earning a 21st-place finish.
Mitchell helped Barber become Akron's first-ever World Champion capturing the gold medal at the 2015 IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Beijing, China, with a winning jump of 19-4.25 (5.90m).
Barber cleared 19-0.25 (5.80m) on his first attempt and was the lone competitor to surpass 19-4.25 (5.90m) besting defending world champion Raphael Holzdeppe, France's Olympic champion and world record holder Renaud Lavillenie and Poland's Piotr Lisek and Pawel Wojciechowsk.
In December 2015, Barber was in San Antonio, Texas, where he was one of three finalists for the Bowerman Award.
Not to be overshadowed was the breakout performances of Murphy on the American and World scene in 2015 and 2016.
After finishing fourth in the 800 meters at the United States Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., Murphy went on to win the 800-meter title and gold medal at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Ontario in July 2015. He then earned a silver medal for the United States in the 800 meters at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Championships (NACAC) in 1:46.38 in San Jose, Costa Rica in August 2015. A late addition to the United States squad at the 2015 World Championships, Murphy reached the semifinal round in the 800 meters en route to becoming the top American finisher in the race.
He continued his dominance in the 2016 indoor campaign where has unbeaten in the mile, including set a school record at the Akron Invitational (Feb. 5), running the first-ever sub-four-minute mile (3:57.11). His victory in the 800 meters at the 2016 NCAA Indoor Championships was the catalyst to capping an unbeaten spring campaign capturing the 1,500-meter title at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., in a school- and MAC-record time of 3:36.38. Following the NCAA's he turned pro and won the 800-meter title at the U.S. Olympic Trials on July 4 crossing the line in 1:44.76.
Mitchell has orchestrated a historic rise on the men's side that saw the program capture 12 MAC Indoor and Outdoor team titles since 2008, including four consecutive titles in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 as well as consecutive titles in 2012 and 2011.
The men's rise follows a dominating run from the women's program that featured five consecutive indoor titles from 2005-'09 and four straight outdoor championships from 2006-09. Furthermore, Akron became just the second school in league history to sweep the men's and women's outdoor championships in 2008 and then repeated the feat in 2009.
In 2017, the Zips garnered both the men's and women's MAC Indoor titles in the same year for the first time in program history and Mitchell was rewarded as he was named the MAC Men's and Women's Coach of the Year.
In 2015, Akron completed a record-setting campaign as the Zips rewrote the history of the program as the men's and women's squads recording the 10th-best combined finish in the country for the 2015 indoor and outdoor seasons. On the strength of a program-best 12th-place performance at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship, the Akron men's track and field concluded 2015 with the ninth-best combined finish in the country.
The Zips' men's squad earned its highest-ever finish at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship, placing ninth in 2015 with 16 points, while the women's team wrapped up 2015 with the 22nd-best combined national showing. The Zips posted their best-ever indoor team performance matching Kansas State and Wisconsin for 18th place with 12 points at the NCAA Indoor Championship, while finishing tied for 32nd place at the NCAA Outdoor Championship.
The streak of championships began in the 2005-06 as Akron women's cross country team won a MAC championship to proceed the indoor and outdoor track and field championships, marking the first time a MAC women's team had won the league's "Triple Crown."
Mitchell overseas Cross Country as well where they have won two cross country MAC Team titles as well.
Fresh after winning the triple crown Mitchell was named the United States head men's track & field coach in the Norwich Union International meet, which was held in August of 2006 at Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, England against Russia, China, and Great Britain. USA men's team finished first, of the men's teams, winning 11 of 16 events and scoring 177 points with Russia's men 146. The coaching stint was his second on a national team as he served on the staff at the 2003 Pan American Junior Championships, working primarily with the throwers and decathletes.
While winning the MAC's Triple Crown in 2005-06 was a notable first, the crowning achievement of Akron track and field occurred in June 2000 when Smith captured the NCAA championship in the heptathlon. After earning the first national crown for Akron, Smith went on to represent the University at the 2000 Olympic Track and Field Trials in Sacramento, Calif.
The 2008 Akron women broke the all-time scoring record.
Then, in 2009, Stevi Large followed suit by becoming the program's second national champion in the hammer after finishing as the national runner up during the indoor season in the weight throw. Large set a number of school and MAC records under Mitchell's tutelage as she was named MAC Outdoor Field Performer of the Year for three-consecutive years while becoming the first MAC female student-athlete to win a league title in a field event four times.
After making her first appearance at the NCAA Championships in 2007, she returned in 2008, earning All-American honors in the weight throw (indoor) and hammer (outdoor), while winning the NCAA Mideast Region title in the hammer.
A former pole vaulter himself and widely regarded as one of the top vault coaches in the nation, Mitchell, who also coaches the UA multi-event athletes, is overseeing a new era in Akron track and field. The Zips have one of, if not the, premier indoor facilities in the nation to call home with the opening of the $20 million Stile Athletics Field House in August of 2004. Stile Field House features a 300-meter, six-lane Mondo track, a 100-yard astroplay field as well as throwing cages, jumping pits and several pole vault apparatus.
In addition to the numerous All-America honors garnered by Akron student-athletes, Mitchell's Zips have also produced 238 individual MAC crowns and 12 relay champions.
In recent years, it has been the achievements of Mitchell's pole vaulters which has propelled the program into the national spotlight. Matt Ludwig added to the title haul in 2017 winning the 19th consecutive title (indoor and outdoor) in the pole vault for the Zips eclipsing 17-1.50 (5.22m). A year ago, Matt Rowland won both the indoor and outdoor MAC titles.
John Russell became a five-time All-American with his performance at the 2006 NCAA Indoor Championships. The league's indoor champion that year, Russell finished third in the men's pole vault, clearing a MAC-record 18-02.50 along the way. In 2004, he was the first MAC student-athlete ever to clear 18-feet indoors.
Kira Sims, who completed her eligibility in 2004, became a three-time All-American in the pole vault and was the first female in UA and MAC history to clear the 14-foot plateau both indoors and outdoors. Sims placed fifth at the 2004 NCAA Indoor meet after winning the league's indoor crown. During the outdoor season, she again won the conference title, adding the Mideast Regional title before placing fourth at the NCAA Outdoors. She closed out her career in the Blue and Gold by placing fourth a second time at the NCAA Outdoors and 11th at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Carrie Kayes was a two-time outdoor All-American in 2009 and 2010, while Michael Uhle became pole vault first-team All-American in 2010 during the indoor campaign.
A six-time first-team All-American, Barber captured three NCAA titles during his illustrious Zips' career, culminating with winning both the indoor and outdoor crowns in 2015.
As a true freshman in 2013, Shawn Barber became the next great Zips pole vaulter, shattering school indoor and outdoor records en route to becoming Canada's national pole vault record holder with a jump of 18-08.75 at the Texas Relays. In all, the Texas native, who owns dual citizenship, swept both indoor and outdoor MAC pole vault titles, placed fifth at the NCAA Indoor Championships, then took third at the NCAA Outdoor Championships as part of a phenomenal freshman campaign.
As a sophomore in 2014, Barber garnered titles at the MAC Indoor and Outdoor Championships. He culminated his efforts during the indoor campaign clearing 18-10.25 at the NCAA Indoor Championship in Albuquerque, N.M., to defeat 2013 NCAA Outdoor Champ Sam Kendricks of Ole Miss to became the first-ever Akron men's individual to claim a national title. Barber and Kendricks met again at the NCAA Outdoor Championship in Eugene, Ore., as Barber earned a runner-up finish after jumping 18-6.25.
In 2015 as a junior, Barber won championships at the MAC Indoor and Outdoor Championships in addition to his NCAA titles and in the process established new school- and conference-records in the pole vault. His winning clearance on his final attempt broke at the 2015 NCAA Indoor Championships not only broke his own collegiate record but also set a new NCAA Championship meet standard besting Jacob Davis' record of 19-2.25 (5.85m) set in 1999.
Barber turned of one of the greatest individual campaigns in the history of the Akron track and field program in 2015 winning 17 of the 19 competitions he competed in, including winning outdoor titles at the Drake, Mt. Sac and Texas Relays, respectively.
Sophomore Annika Roloff captured the 2014 NCAA Championship in the pole vault with a jump of 14-05.25, defeating Indiana senior Kelsie Ahbe in Eugene, Ore., to become the fifth individual national champion and fourth female athlete in school history to win a national championship. NCAA Championship medalist, placing third in the indoor pole vault with a jump of 14-07.25. She swept the MAC Pole Vault titles for the season, winning the event with a MAC Outdoor Championships Meet record jump of 14-01.75 after recording a league Indoor Championships meet record jump of 14-01.25.
Not to be diminished, Beata Rudzinska earned All-American recognition both indoors and outdoors in 2004 and '05 and completed her career with a total of five national honors. A middle-distance specialist, Rudzinska, an 11-time MAC Champion, had eight victories in the MAC 800 meters and four victories in the MAC mile, not to mention a 2005 MAC individual championship in cross country.
The 2005 season saw the women win its first MAC indoor title, tallying 97 points to top the 13-team field, defeating second-place Eastern Michigan by 1.5 points. The men's squad placed fourth, which was the best-ever finish for the men indoors. For his effort, Mitchell earned his first MAC Women's Indoor Coach of the Year honor. During the 2005 outdoor season, the women finished in second place, falling seven points short of their second outdoor MAC title. However, the Zips women's squad came all the way from 10th place on the final day of competition to have a shot to pull the indoor-outdoor title sweep. On the men's side, Akron took fifth place, moving up three places from its eighth-place showing in 2004.
In 1999 the women captured Akron's first-ever outright women's MAC team championship by claiming the league's outdoor title. Seven school records were set at the meet, led by Smith's 5,528 points in the heptathlon. Additionally that season, three athletes snagged indoor and/or outdoor All-American honors. Smith earned both indoor and outdoor recognition after finishing ninth in the long jump at the indoor meet and second in the heptathlon at the outdoor championships with a UA and MAC-record 5,773 points. Varga was ninth in the outdoor high jump, and Chad Bullett became the first male from the track program to earn Division I All-American honors with a 10th-place finish in the 100 meters.
Accomplishments like these were almost unimaginable prior to Mitchell's tenure. He was hired during the summer of 1995, and inherited a program mired in the MAC basement. The men had finished last that spring at the league's championship meet, 22 points behind ninth-place Ball State. The UA women's team had also finished last, 30 points out of ninth place. Four years later, the women earned almost seven times as many points on their way to the league title. The men have also made great strides, increasing their point production each year.
For 10 years, from the fall of 1985 until his appointment at Akron in 1995, Mitchell gained invaluable experience as an assistant coach at Texas (six years) and North Carolina (four years).
As field events coordinator under 1995 NCAA Men's Indoor Coach of the Year Dennis Craddock at UNC, Mitchell helped direct the efforts of 20 Atlantic Coast Conference champions and 13 All-American performances. In his first season in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heel men won their first ACC track and field title (1992) in more than 30 years, and followed that with three straight titles over 1994 and '95.
North Carolina won ACC outdoor crowns each year sandwiched around an indoor championship in 1995. In the meantime, UNC's women followed a 1992 ACC outdoor team championship with indoor-outdoor conference sweeps for the next three seasons (1993-95).
His prize pupils included: 2000 Olympian Lynda Lipson, who finished runner-up in the javelin at the 1992 NCAA Championships; Ingrid Hantho, who placed fourth in discus at the 1994 NCAA Outdoor Championships; and pole vaulter and former Akron assistant Kevin Brown, the first collegiate athlete in the state of North Carolina to clear more than 18 feet.
Prior to serving with the Tar Heels, Mitchell served as assistant field events coach under legendary coach Stan Huntsman at Texas from 1985-91. He tutored four All-American pole vaulters, aiding hurdlers and decathletes as well. The Longhorns captured Southwest Conference titles in 1986 and '87, and finished in the NCAA Outdoors top-five from 1986-89 and again in 1991. During Mitchell's time in Austin, Huntsman was tabbed as head coach for the 1988 U.S. Track & Field Olympic Team.
Among Mitchell's other track & field-related responsibilities is his national-level involvement with USA Track & Field and the U.S. Track and Field Coaches Association.
Mitchell is currently on the USATF Rules Committee and served for 10 years at the Olympic Training Center with the Junior Elite/Emerging Elite Camp. Was on the National Task Force for improvement and Retention of the College Track and Field. Served on the USTFCCCA Strategic Planning Committee.
Name 2013-14 College Pole Vault Coach of the year by USATF pole vault development.
He is an active member of the USATF pole vault development committee and is currently a National Junior Elite Coach. He also serves on the USTFCCCA/USATF Joint Task Force for the Improvement and Retention of College Track and Field.
Mitchell is a native of Rialto, Calif., and a 1985 graduate of Abilene Christian University. While at ACU, he was a pole vaulter on the Wildcats' 1985 NCAA Division II Championship team. Mitchell began his collegiate career at the University of Utah, where he was twice the Western Athletic Conference runner-up in the pole vault.
Mitchell and his wife, Cindy, reside in Portage Lakes. Cindy is a pole vault official and has graduated from the Leadership Akron program. The couple has two sons; Matt and Chad and a pair of grandchildren.
Since joining the Zips' staff in the fall 2001, Brian Forrester, the 2009 USTFCCCA Great Lakes Region Women's Assistant Coach of the Year, has established his group as a force on the conference, regional and national levels.
During that time, his athletes have garnered: a national championship, 16 First-Team All-America awards and seven Second-Team All-American awards. His athletes have also won 35 individual Mid-American Conference championships in the throwing events
He has also sent 11 athletes to the NCAA Championships, while six have gone on to compete at the USA Track and Field Indoor/Outdoor Championships and/or U.S. Olympic Trials. Further, seven have qualified for the USATF Junior Nationals.
His brightest star to date, Stevi Large was a four-time All-American who captured the 2009 NCAA Championship in the hammer while smashing school, conference and regional records along the way. Large, who also finished as the national runner-up in the weight throw in 2009, blossomed into the program's most dominant thrower, capturing nine MAC Championships during her time – including four consecutive hammer titles from 2006-'09.
In all, Akron student-athletes have set seven MAC records and 11 of the school's 12 throws standards under Forrester's direction. Moreover, Akron throwers have won nine Most Outstanding Field Event Performer awards and 1 MVP at conference meets since 2002 and 79 have qualified for the first round of the NCAA Regionals in 114 events. Equally important, the individual accomplishments have contributed greatly to the program's success as the Zips have captured ten MAC Indoor team championships and eleven MAC Outdoor team titles during that time.
Prior to arriving on campus at Akron, Forrester spent the 2001 season as the throwing events coach at Wittenburg University.
While at Wittenburg, the throwers under his tutelage established school records in the men's and women's weight throw, men's and women's javelin, and the men's hammer. He coached athletes to 4 NCAC Championships and three freshmen throwers to NCAA provisional qualifying marks. In 2000, Forrester worked as a volunteer assistant coach at Kent State under the guidance of coach Kent Pagel.
Forrester, who earned his Master of Sports Science and Coaching degree from UA in 2008, is a USATF Level II throws coach, a USTFCCCA Throws Specialist, a USA Weightlifting Club coach and a Jump-Stretch Instructor. He was a member and contributing author of the Long and Strong Throwers Journal/Club. Forrester is the director of the UA track and field camps and has coached at throwing camps throughout Western Pennsylvania and Ohio.
A 1999 graduate of Slippery Rock University with a degree in sport management, Forrester was an all-conference performer in the shot put, as well as the SRU Indoor Athlete of the Year in 1996 and 1997.
Lee LaBadie (pronounced La-Bay-dee), a well respected athlete and coach, is set to begin his ninth season on the Zips' staff this fall as head coach of the men's cross country programs. Additionally, LaBadie had served as the women's cross country coach the previous two years at Akron.
"Coach LaBadie has done an outstanding job with our men's distance runners at Akron and has a tremendous record throughout his long coaching career of developing both male and female distance runners at the Division I level," said Zips head track & field coach Dennis Mitchell. "It was time for our program to combine the men and women like we do in all our event areas. Both genders benefit when they not only receive the same coaching resources, but also when they are able to learn how to work together as a team."
This past summer he helped mold Akron four-time All-American Clayton Murphy into the bronze medalist in the 800 meters. Murphy's finishing kick propelled him to a become the first United States men's 800-meter runner to win an Olympic medal since 1992, chasing down the bronze medal over the final 100 meters on the strength of the fifth-fastest time, 1:42.93, in American history, at the XXXI Summer Olympics.
LaBadie's coaching allowed Murphy to shatter his previous career-best time of 1:44.30 set in the semifinal round, and enabled him to be the third-fastest American ever. Murphy became the first United States men's runner to win an Olympic 800-meter medal since Gray in Barcelona, Spain in 1992, three years before Murphy was born.
This past year saw LaBadie's coaching efforts rewarded as Murphy captured the 2016 NCAA Indoor 800-meter title before winning the 2016 NCAA Outdoor 1,500-meter crown in a school-record time of 3:36.38.
Additionally, Dan Zupan set the program-record time of 8:56.41 in the steeplechase at the 2016 Mid-American Conference Outdoor Championships, while Murphy established new school indoor records in the 800 meters (1:46.11) and mile (3:57.11) in 2016.
The Zips captured 2016 MAC Indoor titles in the Mile (Murphy), 800 Meters (Murphy) as well as the distance medley relay team of Garrett Crichlow, Taron Slone, Zupan and Murphy set a conference oversized meet record winning the race in 9:45.38. During the outdoor campaign, LaBadie was rewarded with titles in the 800 meters (Murphy) and 1,500 meters (Murphy) as well as Zupan placing second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Inheriting a men's cross country program that had placed no better than fifth in the Mid-American Conference in its first 19 years of existence, LaBadie, who arrived on campus in 2008, has led the Zips to arguably their most successful run in program history earning second-places finishes at the league meet in each of the past three seasons, the top finishes in program history.
Murphy was the Zips' top finisher in the 2015 men's race crossing the line in 24:32.86 to place fourth and lead Akron to a second-place team finish.
Kyle Cochrun came in just under three seconds later in a time of 24:35.46 to garner a seventh-place showing. Murphy earned first-team All-MAC accolades for the second straight year, while Cochrun collected first-team honors for the initial time with their performances.
In his first conference championship, Joe Rossetti captured a 16th-place finish coming across the line in 25:21.12 en route to being named MAC Freshman of the Year. Rounding out the scoring members of the Akron squad was Zupan and Aaron Howkins, who registered times of 25:31.88 (20th) and 25:36.92 (25th).
With all five runners inside the top-15 in 2014, the Akron men finished in second place for a second-consecutive season finishing with the lowest championship point total in program history, 49 points, a number which is an 18-point improvement from 2013. Four Zips earned All-MAC honors, led by first-team All-MAC honoree Murphy. Cochrun, Trevor Norris and Zupan each earned second-team All-MAC accolades.
Murphy led the Akron pack with a top-five finish, crossing the line in a time of 24:22 to finish in fourth place. Cochrun, Norris and Zupan were close behind, finishing in ninth, 10th and 11th places, respectively. Cochrun posted a time of 24:36 while Norris covered the 8K course in a time of 24:47. Zupan finished four seconds behind Norris (24:51).
In 2013, with four runners in the top 14, Akron recorded its best ever finish tallying 67 points to place second at the MAC Championships. Brad Hough paced the pack for the Zips, finishing 10th individually with a time of 25:15.24. He joined en a trio of runners – Norris, Murphy and Cochrun, who secured 12th (25:27.12), 13th (25:29.37) and 14th (25:30.67) places, as second-team All-MAC recipients. Dylan Papp rounded out the Zips' top-five, coming in 18th with a time of 25:46.02.
With four runners in the top-25, Akron finished fourth at the MAC Cross Country Championships in 2010 – just nine points behind Kent State and Miami, who each tied for second. Akron was even better in 2012 as all five runners scored in the top-20 while leading the Zips to a third-place team finish and just one point shy of second-place Central Michigan.
Murphy blossomed under the guidance of LaBadie in 2015 capturing four conference titles (800 meters – Indoor and Outdoor; Mile – Indoor; 1,500 meters – Outdoor) en route to placing capturing first-team All-America recognition in the 800 meters at both the 2015 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Murphy then established a new school record in the 800 meters of 1:45.59 to place fourth at the United States Track and Field Championships. He went on to win the gold medal in the 800 meters at the Pan American Games in Toronto and earn silver at the NACAC Championships in San Jose, Costa Rica. He was then added to the United States roster in the 800 meters at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China, where he advanced to the semifinals and was the top American finisher in the event.
Murphy established new school indoor marks in the 800 meters (1:47.06) and mile (4:00.39) in 2015, while Cochrun set new indoor standards in the 3,000 meters (8:06.22) and 5,000 meters (14:16.69) in 2014.
In 2015, Murphy also established outdoor records for the 800 meters (1:45.59) and 1,500 meters (3:40.69), while Cochrun set a new mark in the 5,000 meters (14:07.57).
Capturing both the indoor 3,000- and 5,000-meter titles at the 2014 MAC Championship en route to being named the meet's most valuable performer was Cochrun. Additionally, Jake Hiltner won the 800 meters and Clayton Murphy the mile. Murphy repeated in the mile at the 2015 MAC Indoor Championship.
Murphy and Cochrun won conference outdoor titles in 2014 in the 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters, while Murphy took home championships in the 800 and 1,500 meters in 2015.
LaBadie was instrumental to the development of three-time All-MAC performer Brad Hough, who finished third at the league meet in 2011, seventh in 2012 and 10th in 2013. Hough was just the third Akron runner to be named to the all-conference first team on the men's side with his selection in 2011 and 2012. Murphy became the fourth Zip to be recognized as a first-team All-MAC performer in 2014.
The 2011-13 seasons were especially strong for Akron men's distance runners overall. During that time, Max Hiltner rewrote the school record in the mile (4:06.13), Joe McCoy bettered his record-setting time in the steeplechase (8:59.36), Hough posted the fastest times in the indoor 3,000-meters (8:09.92) and outdoor 5,000-meters (14:18.98), and Cochrun broke the Zips' indoor record for the 5K (14:38.94) and as well as the outdoor standard (14:40.66).
Another LaBadie protegee, Willie Brown earned All-American status in 2011 after shattering school records in both the indoor and outdoor 800 meters and qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials after running 1:45.91 during the outdoor season. Brown, who captured both the MAC indoor and outdoor championships in the 800m, posted the top five outdoor marks in school history as well as three of the top four indoor times.
During the 2009 cross country season, McCoy placed sixth at the MAC Championships, becoming just the second Zip to earn first team honors and just the fifth to earn all-league honors overall.
LaBadie's impact was immediate in 2008 as several veteran runners shaved significant times off their previous personal-records, including Joe Mummert in the indoor 800 and Mike Baraona in the mile. During the outdoor season, Jason Headman set the UA record for the 10,000 (30:10.65) meters, which had stood since 1972.
LaBadie has been in the collegiate coaching field since 1973. Most recently he served his second stint on staff at Ohio State University (2006-08). In his first tenure with Ohio State (1989-93), LaBadie coached a pair of Olympians, each of whom are current distance coaches. Furman head coach Robert Gary was a two-time Olympian in the steeplechase and United States Cross Country Champion. Kent State head men's and women's distance coach Mark Croghan was a two-time NCAA champion in the steeplechase, a three-time Olympian in the event and five-time national champion. All told, he coached three individual Big Ten champions and helped the Buckeyes to a Big Ten team title during the 1992 outdoor season and a runner-up finish in the '92 indoor campaign.
Between his tours at Ohio State, LaBadie was a consultant on training, periodization, psychology and tactics for the University of Illinois, Ohio State and Kent State track and field/cross country programs. Another head coach LaBadie mentored was Illinois' Wayne Angel.
LaBadie is familiar with the Mid-American Conference as well, serving as head women's track & field/cross country coach at Bowling Green from 1985-89. While with the Falcons, he coached two-time NCAA All-American Beth Manson (discus) and All-American Tracy Gaerke (800m). His squads finished runner-up twice and never placed lower than fourth in track or cross country. In addition to his two All-Americans, LaBadie coached 12 individual MAC champions.
He began his coaching career at Parkland College. From 1973-85, he led his teams to five appearances in the National Junior College Athletic Association national championships, placing fifth, seventh, ninth and 11th twice. Individually, LaBadie had over 120 All-Americans and six national champions.
LaBadie was a standout as a student-athlete, competing in the Big Ten. A 1973 Illinois graduate, receiving his degree in philosophy, LaBadie was the 1971 league champion in the mile and was the first Big Ten undergraduate to run the mile in under four minutes (3:58.8). In 1972, he was an NCAA champion in the two-mile relay and placed fifth in the 800m at the Championships. His 1972 two-mile relay team additionally tied a world record. Prior to college, LaBadie was the Illinois high school state cross country champion and two-time Illinois high school mile runner-up.
LaBadie is married to the former Diane Bruce. The couple has two children, Lloyd and Laura.
Former Akron All-American high jumper Tomasz Smialek is in his ninth campaign as a full-time assistant coach on the Zips' staff and 10th season overall. Smialek, a 2006 graduate from Akron, coaches the high jumpers and the horizontal jumpers, while assisting with the day-to-day duties in the track office.
Smialek has overseen the development of six All-Americans – including Collister Fahie (Long Jump), Claudia Garcia-Jou (High Jump), Weronika Gaudyn (Triple Jump), Cadeau Kelley (Long Jump), Jordan Latimer (Long Jump) and Natalie Sako (High Jump) – while his student-athletes have captured 26 individual MAC Championships since 2007.
Entering the 2016 campaign, five of Smialek's protégés own eight combined indoor/outdoor Akron Track and Field school records. That list includes; Collister Fahie (Outdoor Long Jump), Garcia Jou (Indoor and Outdoor High Jump), Weronika Gaudyn (Indoor and Outdoor Triple Jump), Cadeau Kelley (Indoor Long Jump and Triple Jump) and Mike Ohiembor (Outdoor Triple Jump), while Smialek himself owns the top indoor and outdoor men's marks in the high jump.
This past season, he helped guide Garcia-Jou to a pair of Mid-American Conference titles in the high jump en route to setting school records during the indoor and outdoor campaigns. She garnered first-team All-America citations after placing third and sixth, respectively, at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships in 2015.
Freshman Jordan Latimer emerged in the long jump in 2015 placing second at the MAC Indoor Championship before winning the outdoor title. He earned second-team and honorable mention All-America honors after placing 10th and 24th in the long jump at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships.
Setting school records during the indoor campaign in 2015 were Garcia-Jou in the high jump (6-2.75 at NCAA Championship). During the outdoor season, Ohiembor set a record-setting mark in the triple jump (50-8.75) at the MAC Outdoor Championship, while Garcia-Jou jumped 6-2 at the Longhorn Invitational and Gaudyn leapt 41-2.25 at the Campbell/Wright Invitational.
Capturing conference titles during the 2014 campaign were Daryl Baptiste (Long Jump) during the indoor season and Martel Durant (High Jump) at the outdoor championship.
Gaudyn (Triple Jump) pulled in second-team All-America recognition during the 2014 indoor campaign placing ninth in the triple jump.
Tyshaun Peoples won his fourth individual crown in the long jump in 2013 taking the title at the MAC Indoor Championship. Capturing both the indoor and outdoor championships in the high jump in 2013 was Martel Durant.
Under Smialek's guidance, Zips jumpers dominated the MAC Championships from 2010-12, winning 11 individuals titles. Mike McCall, who finished his career as a six-time MAC Champion in the high jump, swept all four high jump titles during that time, while Peoples captured three individual crowns in the long jump and Fahie swept the long jump championships during the outdoor season in 2010 and 2011.
Akron's success continued in 2012 as the men captured their second consecutive MAC Indoor Championship. Daryl Baptiste led the charge, winning the long jump and triple jump competitions at the league meet en route to being named the MAC's Most Outstanding Field Performer.
Furthermore, Fahie went on to earn second-team All-America honors for his 12th-place finish in the 2011 NCAA Championships in long jump and set the school record with a leap of 26-03.75 at the USA Championships in June 2011, where he finished sixth.
In 2009, McCall earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships after winning both the MAC Indoor and Outdoor titles. Tyshaun Peoples won the MAC Outdoor title in the long jump. Also, Fahie was MAC Indoor runner-up in the long jump and outdoor runner-up in the triple jump. Both Peoples and Fahie qualified for the NCAA Regional. On the women's side, Kelly was MAC Indoor champion in the long jump and runner-up in the triple jump, while Alina Bocicor qualified for the NCAA Regional in the high jump.
For 2008, Smialek expanded his role in coaching the horizontal jumpers with Cadeau Kelley and Niesha Kelly experiencing a breakout seasons. Kelley set Akron long and triple jump records for both indoor and outdoor seasons, claimed the MAC long and triple jump championship for both indoor and outdoor seasons, and made his first trip to the NCAA Championships. There, he placed 14th in the long jump and finished his career by earning All-America honors with a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Outdoors.
Smialek continued his success in the vertical jumps as McCall was runner-up at the MAC Indoors as a freshman while Jones placed fourth. During the 2008 outdoor season, Jones was second while McCall was third. Jones and McCall went on to participate in the NCAA Mid-East Regional. While Jones placed 10th, his jump of 7-0.50 was good enough to give the senior an at-large berth to the NCAA Outdoors, where he placed 20th in his first trip to nationals.
In his first year in 2007, concentrating mainly on the vertical jumpers, Smialek oversaw perhaps the MAC's best corps, featuring Sako. During the indoor season, Sako placed 10th at the NCAA Championships to earn her fourth All-American honor, while she and Lisa Ravn tied for second at the MAC meet. Also, on the men's side, Ryan Jones was MAC runner-up in the high jump. Those performances improved in the outdoor season with Sako and Jones both winning the MAC. Jones also nearly qualified for the NCAA Outdoors, placing sixth at the regional.
Smialek completed his collegiate career as one of the best high jumpers to ever compete at Akron. He is the current school record holder in both indoor and outdoor competition, clearing 7-03.25 indoors and 7-03.75 outdoors.
He ended his collegiate career on a high note, earning his second All-American honor at the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Championship, finishing eighth after clearing a season-best 7-02.25. His first All-American honor came at the 2005 NCAA Indoor Championship in which he placed sixth with a jump of 7-02.50.
Smialek is also a six-time MAC Champion in high jump and was named 2005 UA Indoor Most Valuable Performer.
Dominika Stokowska is in her ninth season working with the Zips track and field program, serving as Akron's coach for hurdles, sprints and relays. Stokowska, who served as the Zips' volunteer assistant her first three years on the staff, was promoted to full-time status in August of 2011.
Stokowska has helped develop student-athletes that have captured 21 Mid-American Conference titles during her time at Akron. Additionally, her athletes currently own eight program records.
She coached a number of individual MAC champions including Tyshaun Peoples, Zach Harper, KC LaCross, Rachel Christian, Shauniece Steele, Brent Gray, Dara Perry as well as 4x100 and 4x400 relay squads.
In 2016, Dara Perry won the 100-meter hurdles title at the Mid-American Outdoor Championships in a school-record time of 13.53.
The men's 4x400 relay squad of Mile Baldwin, Brent Gray, Mike Ohiembor and Clayton Murphy captured the MAC Outdoor title in a school-record time of 3:06.80. During the indoor campaign, the quartet of Baldwin, Taron Slone, Gray and Murphy won the conference crown in the event en route to establishing a program-record time of 3:07.58.
The women's 4x400 relay team of Samia Bell, Daziah Green, Michalla Gordon and Jackie Siefring registered a school-record time of 3:42.79 at the 2016 MAC Indoor Championships.
Sean Weems recorded the second-fastest time (51.58) during the outdoor season and placed second in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2016 MAC Outdoor Championships. Additionally, Gray and Baldwin finished second and third respectively, at the league championships in the 400 meters.
In 2015, the 4x100 relay team of Julius Ruby, D.J. Williamson, Miles Baldwin and Anthony Young garnered honorable mention All-America accolades at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship. Ruby, Williamson, Young and Bryce Cheek established a school-record time of 39.95 at the NCAA East Regional to qualify for the NCAA Championship.
At the 2015 Mid-American Conference Championship, Rachel Christian captured the 100-meter title, while Skyler Willis and Siefring placed second in the 100- and 400-meter hurdles and Gray second in the 400 meters.
The Zips set four outdoor school records in 2015 with Gray (400 meters), Willis (100-meter hurdles), the 4x400 relay squad of Weems, Gray, Murphy and Baldwin and the 4x100 relay team of Ruby, Williamson, Young and Cheek.
In 2013, Steele captured the 400-meter title at the MAC Outdoor Championship, while Peoples won the 60-meter indoor championship.
In particular, Peoples excelled under Stokowska's guidance, earning league crowns in both the 60m (2009 and 2013) and 110m (2011) hurdles.
The 4x400 relay team of J'Lani Pryce, Nick Owens, Weems and Gabe Genovesi won the 2012 MAC Indoor title. Other conference champions under Stokowska include; Harper (110m hurdles -2009 Outdoor), LaCross (400m hurdles – 2009 Outdoor)
Stokowska, a 2006 graduate of Kent State, was a standout with the Golden Flashes and twice qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 400m hurdles. She was also a two-time, MAC runner-up in the event and excelled in the classroom – earning Academic All-MAC honors with a 3.4 GPA in human movement studies during her senior year.
Prior to Kent State, Stokowska was a member of the 4x400-meter relay that won gold at the 2001 Polish Junior Championships (Under-19). She also participated in the 2001 World Junior Championships in the 400m hurdles.
Stokowska resides in Akron with her husband Tomasz Smialek who is an Assistant Jumps Coach at The University of Akron.
A 2010 graduate of Penn State, Franek is in her first season on head coach Dennis Mitchell's staff as the women's distance and cross country coach.
Franek was one of the top U.S. women in the steeplechase while still in college competing in the 2008 Olympic Trials and representing team USA at the 2009 IAAF World Championships.
By the time her career as a Nittany Lion was up, she had captured the NCAA title in the steeplechase in 2010 (9:38.86) and was a 10-time All-American.
Upon graduation, Franek moved to Eugene, Ore., to continue competing and joined Oregon Track Club, where she went on to become a two-time national runner-up in 2011 and 2012.
She qualified for a second IAAF World Championships team in 2011 and became a 2012 Olympic finalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase for the United States.
Franek came to Akron after a decorated professional career in which she rose to as high as No. 17 in the world in the steeplechase.
Karlie Hepburn is in her first season as Director of Track and Field Operations for Akron in 2016-17.
A native of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Hepburn earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Akron in sport management. While an undergraduate, she worked in Athletic Facilities and Operations before assuming a similar role while a graduate assistant at Kent State. She earned her master's degree in sport and recreation management from Kent State in 2016.
While completing her master's degree, she worked for the Mid-American Conference as a Championships Assistant from January - June 2016.
|Title:||Volunteer Sprints Coach|
Former University of Akron sprinter and alumni Marcus Ferguson is in his second season assisting Zips' Track and Field program in sprints and relays.
Ferguson played a role in helping the Zips' men's squad capture Mid-American Conference championships during both the 2016 indoor and outdoor campaigns.
He has also helped former Zips' athletes that are currently in the NFL with speed training and agility, including; Justin March (Kansas City Chiefs), Junior "Nmesome Okafor" (free agent), and cousin Tyler Williams (Wichita Falls Nighthawks) - IFL Indoor Football League.
Ferguson, graduated from the University of Akron in 2011, where he received his bachelors degree studying sport management. In 2012, he received his master's degree focusing on exercise science/ sport administration.
Ferguson was a standout athlete for the Zips as a three-time NCAA regional qualifier in the 4x100 relay, placing fourth in 100 meter dash at the MAC Championships, and being part of the first men track and field championships in 2008 to 2011.
Prior to returning to Akron, Ferguson was a speed coach for Akron native and former NFL running back Delone Carter, the 2006 Mr. Football Ohio, while also assisting with several other NFL athletes currently with speed and agility training.