After helping build Florida into a national championship program, former Ole Miss student-athlete and assistant coach Brian O'Neal returned home to Mississippi to take the helm of the Rebel track and field/cross country program as head coach on June 12, 2012.
His first year at the helm of the Ole Miss program was a success, as he led the men to their best ever national outdoor finish and the women to their best ever SEC cross country finish.
Highlighted by the Rebels' first ever NCAA pole vault champion, Sam Kendricks, and scintillating sprinter Isiah Young, the Ole Miss men finished No. 8 at the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships in O'Neal's first season.
Kendricks set all sorts of records during his sophomore season en route to the national title. Among those was his school-record vault of 19-0.75 at the Texas Relays, which was the best in the NCAA since 1998 and No. 5 all-time in collegiate history.
O'Neal helped Young develop into one of the world's top sprinters in 2013. Young shattered school records in the 100 (9.93) and 200 (19.86), and competed for Team USA in the latter at the 2013 World Championships to follow up his 2012 London Olympics appearance. He placed runner-up in the 200 and third in the 100 at the NCAA Championships, while he was SEC champion in the 200 and SEC runner-up in the 100. Young signed a professional contract with Nike upon the completion of his senior year.
In his debut season as head coach, he guided Ole Miss athletes to seven All-America honors with one NCAA champion and two SEC champions.
One of O'Neal's first tasks was to strengthen the Rebels' distance program, and he made a good first step with the women's team placing fourth at the 2012 SEC Cross Country Championships for their best showing ever. In addition, Katie Breathitt became the first female in school history to compete at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
A native of nearby Pontotoc, O'Neal is the third head coach in the modern history of the Ole Miss track and field program. He took the reins from his former coach, Joe Walker, after Walker's 30-year career with the Rebels.
O'Neal was the 2009 national assistant coach of the year at Florida and helped the Gators to four national championships and three runner-up finishes in his four years there.
In his 19-year coaching career at Ole Miss and Florida, O'Neal has mentored numerous NCAA champions, SEC champions and Olympic athletes.
While coaching the women's jumpers and assisting Mike Holloway with the sprints, hurdles and relays, O'Neal helped the Gator men's team capture four NCAA team championships and three runner-up finishes over four years. The women's team also collected three top-10 NCAA finishes during O'Neal's time in Gainesville.
In 2012, the Florida men were crowned national champions at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships.
Between the indoor and outdoor SEC Championships, he also helped lead the Gator men to two league titles and the women to three league crowns. Neither team finished lower than fifth at any SEC meet during O'Neal's four-year tenure. He mentored UF athletes to 45 All-America honors, 14 All-American relays and 25 SEC titles.
Among the stars that developed under O'Neal's tutelage at Florida were 2012 NCAA indoor and outdoor triple jump champion Omar Craddock, four-time NCAA men's triple jump champion Christian Taylor and seven-time SEC champion and four-time All-American Shara Proctor in the women's triple and long jumps.
In 2012, he coached Craddock to the phenomenal status of indoor and outdoor NCAA champion, as well as indoor and outdoor SEC champion. He also mentored freshman Ciarra Brewer to the SEC women's triple jump title, in large part because of a change in technique, recommended by O'Neal, that helped her become the No. 2-ranked triple jumper in UF history.
In 2010, O'Neal mentored freshman sprinter Lanie Whittaker to become the 2010 SEC Indoor Co-Freshman of the Year after a fourth-place finish in the 400-meter run at the SEC Indoor Championships and running the third leg of Florida's 4x400-meter relay that ran the school's fastest time in that event since the 2005 season.
In his first year at Florida, O'Neal was named the 2009 USTFCCCA Men's Indoor National Assistant Coach of the Year after guiding the Gators to NCAA runner-up finishes at the national indoor and outdoor meet.h That year he helped develop Taylor, who won the 2009 NCAA Indoor triple jump title as a freshman and also was the Cliff Harper Trophy recipient at the 2009 SEC Indoor Championships as the league's high points scorer with individual championships in the long jump, triple jump and 4x400-meter relay.
The final season of his 14-year assistant coaching tenure at Ole Miss saw O'Neal distinguished with 2008 USTFCCCA South Region Women's Assistant Coach of the Year honors. That year he mentored Kenyata Coleman to a fifth-place finish in the 400-meter dash at the NCAA Championships and All-America honors, as well as the 400-meter SEC title. LaJada Baldwin was also an All-America selection in the 400, holding a personal-best time of 52.51. Both advanced to the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.
Also in 2008, O'Neal coached four women in the 400-meter hurdle finals at the SEC Outdoor Championships, and Brittney Reese was fifth at the SEC Indoor Championships in the 60-meter dash. Reese was the 2008 NCAA indoor and outdoor champion in the long jump and represented the U.S. in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing after winning the U.S. Olympic trials.
O'Neal was promoted to Ole Miss associate coach for his final three seasons in Oxford and was responsible for coaching the sprints, relays and hurdles for the Rebels, as well as serving as the team's recruiting coordinator. After joining the staff in 1994, O'Neal was promoted to a full-time assistant in 1995.
In all, O'Neal coached 12 athletes to top-four finishes at the NCAA Championships during his first stop at Ole Miss. He also mentored 18 athletes to earn 39 All-America honors and seven SEC champions in that 14-year span.
In 2007, under O'Neal's direction, the Lady Rebels set a school record in the 4x100-meter relay as the quartet of Kadeshia Fortune, Cachet Murray, Kim Mulkey and Coleman posted a time of 44.49 at the SEC Championships. The Ole Miss 4x100-meter relay team would go on to finish 11th at the NCAA Championships. O'Neal also guided Coleman to a school record in the 400 meters en route to her selection as an NCAA Outdoor All-American.
Antwon Hicks, under O'Neal's guidance, was a two-time NCAA indoor champion in the 60-meter hurdles, claiming the national title in 2004 and 2005. John Yarbrough was the NCAA outdoor runner-up in the 110-meter hurdles in 2007, while Hicks was the runner-up in that event in 2005.
In 2003, O'Neal helped Kendrick Triggs to a fantastic season, culminating in Ole Miss' first individual SEC Indoor Championship in 10 years when Triggs captured the 200-meter title.
O'Neal's sprinters shattered school records in 11 events in 2001. The UM sprinters also excelled on a national and international level. Ole Miss was represented by three athletes who competed for USA teams over the summer. Teneeshia Jones competed in the World University Games, Triggs competed in the Junior Pan American Games and Savante' Stringfellow competed at both the World Championships and the Goodwill Games.
Stringfellow was the USA indoor and outdoor champion in 2000 and also claimed the NCAA Outdoor Championship in 2000, representing the U.S. in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
Under O'Neal's guidance, Jones won the 2001 SEC title in the 100-meter hurdles and finished her career with eight All-America honors and seven school records. James Shelton was the 2001 NCAA runner-up in the indoor 60 meters, garnering his first All-America honor. Triggs set the Ole Miss record in the indoor 200 and went on to post an outdoor personal-best with his runner-up finish in the USATF Junior Nationals 200.
O'Neal directed the men's 4x400 relay team to the Championship of America title at the Penn Relays in 1999, the last year the Rebels would compete at the historic event.
In his second season at Ole Miss, O'Neal coached the No. 1 and No. 3-ranked 400-meter men in the NCAA with Brad Pride winning the SEC Championship with a mark of 45.29 and Ed Odom posting a time of 45.35.
In his first season with the Rebels, O'Neal coached Greg Saddler to an NCAA Indoor Championship in the 55 meters and coached the men's 4x400-meter relay team to an SEC runner-up finish and a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. His 4x400 relay team that year set a then-SEC record of 3:02.30.
O'Neal was a four-year letterman as a middle-distance runner for the Rebels. He was a member of three relay teams that finished in the top three at the SEC Championships, including the 1990 SEC runner-up 4x800-meter relay team.
A 1993 graduate of Ole Miss with a bachelor's degree in public administration, O'Neal is married to Ole Miss graduate and former Rebelette LaChonda Carter. The couple has three children, a son Cameron LaBrian and daughters Cayden Shree and Camille Brianna.
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