Kelly Sullivan Named Women's Cross Country, Track Head Coach
Jan. 6, 2004
CORVALLIS, Ore. - -
Kelly Sullivan has been named head coach of the Oregon State women's track and cross country teams, OSU athletic director Bob De Carolis announced Tuesday.
Sullivan had been the men's and women's head cross country and track and field coach at Willamette University since 1997.
OSU revives its women's track and cross country programs beginning next fall. The men's and women's programs were dropped in 1988 due to budgetary considerations. OSU will field women's cross country in the fall, indoor track in the winter, and outdoor track in the spring beginning in the fall of 2004.
Sullivan, a 1979 NAIA All-American in the steeplechase and cross country at Willamette, was named the 2003 Northwest Conference women's cross country Coach of the Year after leading the Bearcats to the Northwest Conference title in 2003.
Sullivan guided the men's track and field team to a sixth-place finish nationally in 2003, while the men's cross country squad was fifth in 2002. In the fall of 2003, his women's cross country team placed eighth nationally - the highest finish in school history.
In 2000, Sullivan led the Willamette women's cross country team to its first NWC title in the history of the program.
In over 23 years of coaching, Sullivan has earned 24 conference or regional Coach of the Year honors in cross country and track and field, including the 2002 and 2003 NCAA West Region Track Coach of the Year for men and women.
'We're extremely excited to have Kelly on board,' De Carolis said. 'He has tremendous experience and is a high-caliber coach. Kelly has shown an ability to build programs both at Willamette and at Auburn, and being a native Oregonian, he has ties to the area and knows it well. He also has a tremendous knowledge of recruiting.'
For the Nehalem, Ore., native, the opportunity was too good to pass up.
'I told people over the last 10-12 years that one of my dream jobs would be to coach at Oregon State if they ever started women's track again and that it would be an ideal situation for me,' Sullivan said. 'When it was announced over the summer (that OSU was reinstating cross country and track), I was very excited - both for the university to have the sports again and for a possible opportunity to coach at OSU.'
The challenge of building a successful program from the ground up is one that Sullivan has embraced.
'We need to get the word out that the program is alive and kicking at OSU, and we want to welcome as many people as we can into the program,' Sullivan said.
'I think the state of Oregon is a diamond in the rough - distance running is huge in this state. A lot of people have been looking forward to the day when OSU brings back track and cross country.
'Oregon State is in a great location and has a great environment. With the success the football team and some of the other sports have had, it's put Oregon State on the map in terms of name recognition; and I think the athletic department has worked very hard to improve the facilities as well.'
In addition to coaching Division III national champions Jimmy Watts (decathlon; 1999-2000), Beth Fitzgerald (800 meters; 1999) and Nick Symmonds (800; 1,500 meters, 2003) at Willamette, Sullivan has amassed an impressive coaching record since completing his collegiate career in 1979.
Before coaching the Bearcats, he served a 12-year stint as the head men's and women's cross country and assistant track and field coach at Auburn from 1984-96.
During that time, Sullivan's female athletes broke every Auburn distance record and earned their first and only two NCAA Cross Country Championships appearances in 1994-95.
At Auburn, Sullivan coached 36 All-Americans in cross country and track, including 1988 steeplechase Olympian and former indoor recordholder Brian Abshire. Sullivan also coached the first female distance All-Americans in school history.
Sullivan mentored 23 Division III All-Americans at Willamette, including individuals who won five national championships.
Prior to coaching at Auburn, Sullivan headed the cross country program and was the assistant track and field coach at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, Ore., coaching 24 NJCAA All-Americans from 1980-84.
In 2001, Sullivan served as an assistant track and field coach for the USA World Track and Field Championships in Edmonton, Canada.
Sullivan has made a habit of success when faced with rebuilding situations, revitalizing the men's and women's programs at Willamette and jump-starting a lagging women's team at Auburn before the men's and women's programs were combined.
'Each situation has been a little different, but at the time I started at Auburn and Willamette, the programs had been down a bit,' Sullivan said. 'There are 130-140 kids on the Willamette roster now, and when we got there it was less than 30.
'We worked very hard to get the numbers up there, and I'm very optimistic that we can do the same at Oregon State.
'I'm excited and really looking forward to getting in touch with the alumni and bringing them back into the fold at OSU.'
Oregon State previously fielded varsity women's track and field and cross country teams from 1975 to 1988; both the men's and women's programs were discontinued after the 1988 season. The Beavers produced three U.S. Olympic women's team members, as high jumper Joni Huntley earned spots in 1976 and 1984, 800-meter runner Kathy Weston qualified in 1976 and heptathlete Cindy Greiner was on the 1984, 1988 and 1992 squads.
In those 14 seasons of intercollegiate competition, OSU had 12 All-America finishes and four national champions in the AIAW (1975-81) and NCAA (1982-88) national meets. Oregon State had 14 regional champions in the years prior to women's track becoming a Pac-10 sport in 1987; the Beavers then competed just two years in the Pac-10 before dropping track.