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Four-time U.S. Olympian Connie Price-Smith was announced as the head coach of the Ole Miss track & field and cross country programs by athletics director Ross Bjork on July 21, 2015.
Price-Smith brings an impressive resumé of credentials to Oxford from her days as an athlete and as a coach. She will be the women's head coach for Team USA at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, while she has been a highly successful college head coach following her career as a professional thrower.
Over the last 14 seasons as head coach at her alma mater, Southern Illinois University, she led the Saluki women to four Missouri Valley Conference titles and finished a program-best ninth in the nation at the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships and 2015 NCAA Indoor Championships. She also directed the men to a pair of league titles.
A six-time MVC Coach of the Year, Price-Smith mentored 206 MVC individual champions, 19 MVC Most Valuable Athletes, 51 first team All-Americans and eight individual NCAA champions during her time as both the head women's coach (2002-04) and at the helm of the combined program (2005-15).
The 2015 season may have been the best in SIU track & field history, as Price-Smith guided the women's team to a ninth-place national finish indoors and 12th place outdoors. Her pupils were crowned NCAA individual champion three times in 2015, as freshman Raven Saunders captured the indoor and outdoor shot put titles and junior DeAnna Price won gold in the outdoor hammer throw.
In addition to Saunders and Price, the record-breaking female athletes who have flourished under Price-Smith include U.S. throwing standouts Brittany Riley, Jeneva Stevens and Gwen Berry, as well as Bahamian long jumper Bianca Stuart, among others. Men's standouts include throwers Josh Freeman and J.C. Lambert and high jumper Kyle Landon.
SIU became known as a home for NCAA champions under Price-Smith. In addition to Saunders and Price in 2015, other NCAA champions were Jeneva (then) McCall in the 2012 indoor weight throw and outdoor hammer; McCall in the 2010 outdoor discus; and Riley in the 2007 and 2008 indoor weight. National runners-up included Lambert in the 2012 indoor weight; McCall in the 2011 outdoor hammer and 2012 indoor shot put; Riley in the 2007 and 2008 outdoor hammer; and Amarachi Ukabam in the 2006 indoor weight.
Price-Smith's SIU teams finished top 25 at the NCAA Championships 11 times, including a pair of top-10 results. The women won MVC indoor titles in 2005 and 2009 and outdoor titles in 2009 and 2010. The men were crowned league indoor champions in 2012 and outdoor victors in 2015.
She was tabbed MVC Coach of the Year for the 2005 and 2009 indoor seasons, 2009 and 2010 outdoor seasons, 2012 indoors and 2015 outdoors.
Price-Smith is no stranger to coaching on the international stage, either. She was the head women's coach for Team USA at the 2011 IAAF World Championships (Daegu, South Korea), the 2013 World University Games (Kazan, Russia) and the 2007 Pan American Games (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). She served as an assistant coach at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics, as well as the 2004 World Junior Championships (Grosseto, Italy), the 2005 World Indoor Championships (Budapest, Hungary) and with the U.S. 2006 World Cup Team (Athens, Greece).
Price-Smith began her coaching career as a volunteer assistant coach at Ohio State upon the completion of her 15 years as a professional athlete.
During her decade-and-a-half career as a world-class thrower, Price-Smith was a 25-time U.S. champion in the shot put and discus and a member of 34 international U.S. squads. She participated in four Olympic Games - 2000 (Sydney), 1996 (Atlanta), 1992 (Barcelona) and 1988 (Seoul) – with a best finish of fifth in the shot put in her home country at the 1996 Atlanta Games. That’s the best finish by a U.S. woman in the event since 1960.
In 1992, Price-Smith became the first woman to win both the shot put and discus at an Olympic trial in 32 years. In 1995, she became the first U.S. woman in 35 years to win a World Championship medal in the shot put after claiming silver - still the highest finish by an American woman ever in the shot.
Price-Smith is a 1985 graduate of Southern Illinois University. She only competed in track & field her senior year at SIU after an outstanding four-year college basketball career. She still ranks among the school's all-time leaders with 1,271 points and 744 rebounds, while she maintains the single-season record for best field goal percentage at .650, which led the nation her junior year.
At the urging of SIU track & field standout John Smith, whom she married in 1990 and now coaches alongside, Price-Smith threw the shot put for the first time as a senior and quickly became dominant in both the shot and discus, winning MVC indoor and outdoor titles in the shot in 1985. And the rest is history.
A 1990 Saluki Hall of Fame inductee, Price-Smith also received the SIU Distinguished Alumni Award in 2001 and was named the Administrative/Professional Woman of Distinction in 2007. She was also selected for induction to the Drake Relays Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame in 2012 as an Institutional Great. Most recently in 2014, Price-Smith was enshrined into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame.
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