School-Record 10 Entries Will Compete for National Titles in College Station
Rebel Sweep of South Region Assistant Coaches of the Year
Athlete, Friend, Student, Comedian, Advocate, Champion
Highly Successful Coaches Join Rebel Program
In his first year on the Ole Miss track & field staff, renowned throws coach John Smith brings a wealth of experience and success to the Rebel program.
A five-time USTFCCCA Midwest Region Assistant Coach or Coach of the Year (2005, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2015) and the 2015 USTFCCCA National Women's Assistant Coach of the Year, Smith turned Southern Illinois into a throwers' powerhouse over his 11-year tenure with the Salukis.
Before joining the Saluki coaching staff in 2004, Smith mentored 20 Big Ten champions, 19 All-Americans, 15 national qualifiers and two NCAA champions in five years as an assistant at Ohio State.
An All-American shot putter himself while a student-athlete at SIU, he had unparalleled success in his coaching tenure at his alma mater. Over 11 seasons, he accumulated eight NCAA champions, 52 All-Americans, 66 Missouri Valley Conference champions, one NCAA Indoor National Athlete of the Year and one world record in the women's weight throw -- the latter two courtesy of two-time NCAA champion Brittany Riley.
Most recently, Smith and his throwers put on one of the best and most dominant showings in the ring in SIU history and across the nation in 2014-15. With the arrival of all-time girls' national record holder Raven Saunders and the return of the injured DeAnna Price, Smith was in possession of perhaps his best throws squad of his career, and they did not disappoint. Saunders, who has since transferred to Ole Miss, immediately announced her presence as the best in the country, shattering the SIU, MVC, MVC Championships and American Junior indoor and outdoor shot put records en route to two NCAA shot put titles -- both won in dramatic fashion on her very last throw.
Price turned a lot of heads after a third-place finish in the weight throw at the indoor national meet, but proceeded to stun the world by winning the NCAA hammer throw title outdoors on a gargantuan NCAA meet record heave of 71.49m/234-6 -- making her the third-best hammer thrower in NCAA history (and yet second at SIU behind NCAA No. 2 Riley). But not even two weeks later, Price did it again in the same ring, unleashing one 72.30m/237-2 to come within three inches of a USA title and punch her ticket to Beijing for the 2015 IAAF World Championships. She placed 16th in Beijing with a throw of 68.89m/226-0.
Earlier in the season, Smith and his throwers led a clinic on the conference level, scoring an impossible 216 MVC meet points in 2014-15. Smith actually only lost one MVC event all season: the women's discus. The efforts of his male throwers -- particularly in the discus on day three -- helped the Saluki men win their first outdoor MVC title since 1992.
As a student-athlete at SIU from 1980-84, Smith won eight MVC titles in the shot put, discus and hammer and set records in both the indoor and outdoor shot put that still stand today. The Portage, Indiana, native was part of the legendary 1984 squad that won 13 All-American certificates and two NCAA runners-up that finished fifth outdoors and ninth indoors nationally. In 2007, Smith was named to the MVC's All-Centennial Team.
After he graduated in 1984, Smith was a member of two Olympic Festival teams and a part of the USA vs. Great Britain national team. He participated in five national championships, with his highest finish being seventh in the shot put.
Before hitting the collegiate coaching scene, Smith was involved with personal high school coaching in the shot put and discus since 1980. He trained 20 Indiana state champions and five Track and Field News High School All-Americans. Two of his student-athletes were national champions and five were named to the U.S. Junior National Team.
He began his collegiate coaching career as a postgraduate volunteer assistant coach and strength and conditioning assistant at SIU from 1984-86, where he coached his future wife Connie Price-Smith and SIU's first female All-American Rhonda McCausland. From there, Smith continued his tour as a professional coach, following Price-Smith's highly successful professional career over the next decade. In 1999, he was hired as the throws coach at Ohio State, where he stayed until Southern came calling for him to return to Carbondale five years later.
At OSU, Smith coached a slew of magnificent throwers but two that stood out during his tenure were two-time NCAA champion Dan Taylor and future Saluki Amarachi Ukabam.
Taylor, a nine-time All-American, two-time Big Ten Indoor/Outdoor Male Athlete of the Year, Ohio State Athlete of the Year and Region V Athlete of the Year, established OSU and Big Ten records in the indoor weight throw and set OSU standards in the hammer and discus outdoors as well. Most notably, Taylor became the first thrower in NCAA history to win both the indoor shot put and weight throw national titles in the same season.
Smith also helped establish one of the finest freshman campaigns by an OSU student-athlete with his mentoring of Amarachi Ukabam to Big Ten and NCAA Mideast Regional titles in the discus in 2004. Ukabam followed Smith to SIU later that year where she became a five-time All-American and broke seven MVC records in her first season as a Saluki in 2005.
Ukabam competed alongside Brittany Riley, who in 2007 would bring worldwide acclaim to Southern with her world-record shattering mark of 25.56m/83-10.5 in the weight throw set as a Saluki on March 10, 2007. Riley was a six-time All-American who won two NCAA championships (weight throw, 2007-08) and was named the NCAA Indoor National Athlete of the Year in 2007.
Smith's Saluki throwers are responsible for two of the greatest seasons in Saluki track and field history. In 2009 the women's outdoor team finished ninth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, the best finish in the women's program history and the third-best national finish ever at SIU. That outdoor season saw eight All-American certificates awarded to Saluki throwers, including sophomore Jeneva McCall's national title in the discus. Four women (McCall, Gwen Berry, Olga Ciura and Sasha Leeth) earned All-America honors in the hammer throw, the most All-America honors for one school in a single event in NCAA history.
In 2012, McCall concluded her SIU career in grand fashion with two NCAA titles (weight throw, hammer throw). Those two championships pushed her career total to three, which made her the winningest Saluki in history and the first ever to win multiple titles in the same season.
Of the 51 Missouri Valley Conference records SIU holds, 15 record holders are SIU throwers -- 13 of which are pupils of John Smith since 2004.
Post-collegiately and internationally, Smith's throwers have gone on to compete successfully in the highly arduous professional throwing circuit. In 2013, Jeneva (now) Stevens became the first American woman to ever medal in the hammer throw in international competition with her gold medal victory at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia. Earlier that same year, former Saluki and Smith disciple Berry won the weight throw national title at the USATF Indoor Championships with the best mark in the world for 2013 at 24.70m/81-10.5.
His most notable pupil in his professional coaching career is, of course, his wife -- current Ole Miss head coach Connie Price-Smith. From 1980-84, Price was a standout center on the Saluki basketball team. At the urging of Smith (then a postgraduate volunteer assistant coach), Price threw the shot put and discus in 1985, winning indoor and outdoor MVC shot put titles that very season.
What followed for Price was a 14-year professional career that included 18 outdoor national titles, six indoor titles, five Olympic trials titles and four trips to the Olympic Games with Team USA (Seoul, 1988; Barcelona, 1992; Atlanta, 1996; Sydney, 2000). Price became the first American woman to be world-ranked in the shot put for five consecutive seasons (1995-99), the first woman to win both the shot put and discus at an Olympic trial in 32 years (1992), the first American woman to win a World Championship medal in the shot put in 35 years (1995, silver), and her fifth-place finish in the shot put at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta was the highest finish by an American woman since 1960. In addition, Price-Smith won the gold medal at the Pan-American Games in 1999 just prior to Smith's hiring at OSU.
Price and Smith were married in 1990 and have been coaching together since Smith joined the SIU staff in 2004.
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