Six Rebel Athletes Will Compete In Eight Different Events
One of the most well-respected coaches in the country, Joe Walker is in his 30th season as head coach of the Ole Miss track and field team. A veteran with more than four decades of coaching experience, Walker has routinely produced SEC champions, NCAA champions and Olympians throughout his coaching career. It is that attitude of excellence that Walker exudes that has lifted Ole Miss among the elite track and field programs in the country.
As the Rebels' head coach, he has guided his teams to 11 top-20 national finishes, including six times in the last five seasons. His pupils have earned All-America recognition 115 times, including 12 NCAA individual championships.
The Mississippi native has mentored NCAA champions during each of his head coaching stops at Ole Miss, Florida and Mississippi College.
At least one of his athletes or former athletes participated in every Olympic Games from 1976-2000 and then again in 2008.
His love for teaching and mentoring young people to excel on the track and in all areas of life was rewarded in 2002 when he was named the USOC National Track and Field Coach of the Year.
Needless to say, Walker has compiled quite the coaching resumé.
His smile is bigger than ever these days because, in addition to being able to offer potential athletes his coaching expertise, he can also display recruits to the Ole Miss Track & Field Complex and state-of-the-art indoor practice facility, which combine to form one of the elite collegiate facilities and training environments in not just the United States, but the world.
A quick look at Walker's file and you will find someone who seemed to be born to coach. His father was a coach and Walker became one of the youngest collegiate head coaches at age 23 when he was hired at Mississippi College in 1970.
Because he thinks of himself as a teacher first and foremost, he is known in the coaching profession as someone with the knack for developing talent, having coached athletes to 70 SEC individual championships (57 at Ole Miss, 13 at Florida) and eight SEC relay championships. Twice his relay teams have set what at the time was an SEC record.
Walker's record with team championships is equally as impressive. His teams have won five SEC men's championships and were SEC runners-up once. On the national scene, he has produced several top-20 teams. His men's indoor team at the University of Florida was third in the NCAA and his cross country team finished eighth at the NCAA's. His Mississippi College team was fourth in the Division II NCAA Outdoor Championships.
2011: Ole Miss excelled at a high level in 2011, as the men's indoor team finished 11th in the nation and the women's indoor team finished 23rd in the country. The men's outdoor team would go on to claim 19th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, as well. Ten different Rebel athletes earned a total of 13 All-America honors, including NCAA runner-up performances by Ricky Robertson (indoor and outdoor high jump) and Mike Granger (indoor 60 meters). Robertson (high jump) and Lee Ellis Moore (400 meter hurdles) were both crowned SEC Champions, as Robertson accomplished the feat in the indoor and outdoor season. Lee Ellis Moore, Sofie Persson and Barnabas Kirui were Academic All-Americans, and Moore earned SEC Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year and NCAA Top VIII honors.
2010: The men finished 20th at the NCAA Indoor Championships behind All-American performances by Ricky Robertson, Brian Knight and Mike Granger. Sofie Persson was also an Indoor All-American in the 800 meters, and Robertson and Colin Moleton were named Outdoor All-Americans. During the summer, Granger won the U.S. Junior Championship in the 100 meters and was a member of the U.S. 4x100 meter relay team that won a gold medal at the World Juniors, while he finished fourth in the World Juniors 100. Barnabas Kirui capped his track career with his second career SEC Outdoor Runner of the Year honor and SEC Commissioner's Trophy for scoring the most points at the SEC Outdoor Championships. His brother, Martin, won the 3,000 meter steeplechase. Lee Ellis Moore was named an Academic All-American first team member.
2009: With very young teams in 2009, Ole Miss still had four NCAA Outdoor All-Americans in Lee Ellis Moore, Derek McGuire, Colin Moleton and LaJada Baldwin. Moore, Baldwin and Wale Odetunde each qualified to compete at the USA Track and Field Championships. Thrower Juliana Smith claimed the individual title in the weight throw to become only the second female in school history to win an SEC Indoor Championship. During the outdoor season, Odetunde was crowned SEC champion in the triple jump, while Baldwin accomplished the feat in the 400 meters.
2008: In 2008, the women's team had its best season in school history as the Rebels finished in sixth place at the SEC Indoor Championships to tie the school record for highest finish ever at the event. In addition, the women's team set a new school record by compiling a total of 49 points to shatter the old record of 32 points set during the 2007 season. Weeks later, the women's team finished in 13th place at the NCAA Indoor Championships to mark the highest indoor finish in school history. The 2008 women's team also finished in sixth place at the SEC Outdoor Championships and set a new school record for points at any SEC meet by finishing with 73 points. That team went on to post a 15th-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships after collecting a total of 14 points to cap one of the greatest season's in school history.
The 2008 Ole Miss track and field team had 12 athletes named to the MidEast All-Regional team, had a record 13 athletes advance to the NCAA National Championship meet and featured four athletes selected as NCAA All-Americans.
2007: In 2007, Ole Miss had a then-record nine athletes advance to the NCAA National Championship meet. At the 2007 NCAA Outdoor Championships, the men finished 12th, which is Ole Miss' highest outdoor finish ever. The women also recorded Ole Miss' highest outdoor finish at that time by taking 27th place. At the 2007 SEC Outdoor Championships, the women's team scored the most points in school history. During the 2007 outdoor season, both squads had the second most points in school history.
2006: In 2006, the program saw its first SEC Cross Country champion in 13 years. Freshman Barnabas Kirui became the first Ole Miss runner since Pablo Sierra in 1992 to win the SEC championship. Kirui did not finish outside the top 10 all season and was named the SEC Freshman of the Year and SEC Athlete of the Year by the league's coaches.
Always known as a long jump specialist, Walker has coached the famous Larry Myricks, who made four Olympic teams; Ralph Spry, the first-ever Ole Miss track & field NCAA champion; Tisha Parker, who at the time held the SEC outdoor record and was the first Ole Miss female to win an SEC title; Savante' Stringfellow, who won three NCAA titles and had a great international career while making the 2000 Olympic team; Shantel Glass and Charles Bailey, who won SEC titles; and Marquita Aldridge, who was also on the USA world junior team.
Most recently, he has coached quite possibly the greatest female athlete in school history as he helped Brittney Reese become one of the most decorated athletes in school history. As a sophomore in 2007, Reese won both indoor and outdoor SEC titles in the long jump, was the NCAA runner-up in the long jump and finished eighth at the USA World Championships. In her final season at Ole Miss in 2008 before turning pro, Reese captured the SEC titles in the long jump and high jump en route to winning the SEC Commissioner's Trophy for accumulating the most points during the course of the meet. Her 31 points scored were the most by any athlete in school history. Reese went on to become the first female in school history to win an individual NCAA Championship as she accomplished the feat in the long jump at the NCAA Indoor Championships. She also finished third in the high jump and was named an NCAA All-American in both events.
Reese continued her dominance under Walker at the SEC Outdoor Championships as she was crowned the SEC Champion in the long jump. With that distinction, Reese became just the third athlete in school history to win back-to-back SEC Championships. Once again, she also captured the SEC Commissioner's Trophy and finished the weekend with 27.25 points. Reese went on to win her second NCAA title of the season as she was named the NCAA Champion and an All-American in the long jump when she recorded a mark of 22-09.00 to equal the longest jump in the world at that time. Reese capped her sensational season by finishing first in the long jump at the U.S. Olympic Trials with a school record leap of 22-09.75, becoming the fourth track and field athlete in school history to compete for the United States in any Olympic Games. Reese finished fifth in the long jump at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and was the top American finisher in the event. In 2009 she established herself as the top female long jumper in the World with victories at the World Championships and World Athletic Final and finished the season with the longest jump in the world with a 23-03.50 leap. She again won the long jump at the 2010 and 2011 World Championships, establishing herself as the world's best in the event.
Walker's legacy is also strong in the triple jump. Alvin Haynes came to Ole Miss as a 50-00.00 triple jumper and finished with a personal best mark of 54-09.00. He was a two-time SEC outdoor champion and twice SEC indoor runner-up, as well as being a member of the Barbados Olympic Team in 1992. Brandon Atkinson was the SEC runner-up in the triple jump in 2005 in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. Recent graduate Adewale Odetunde was a multi-time SEC scorer in both the long and triple jumps. Odetunde capped his career at Ole Miss by winning the individual title in the triple jump at the 2009 SEC Outdoor Championships, becoming the first Ole Miss athlete to accomplish that feat since Haynes in 1992.
Walker once again returned to coach the sprints in 2009 after assistant coach Greg Stringer was hired to work with the Rebel jumpers. During his time at Florida, Walker's sprint team finished 1-2 in 1987 and then went 1-2-3 in the 55 meters at the 1988 SEC Indoor Championships. Two of his pupils, Dennis Mitchell and Mark Everett, went on to become Olympians, and Mitchell held the indoor collegiate record in the 200 meters under Walker. Walker also coached Denise Mitchell, the twin sister of Dennis, to an NCAA runner-up finish in the 400 meters. Denise went on to become a member of the 4x400 meter relay team that captured a gold medal at the World University Games.
During his tenure at Ole Miss, Walker has coached Greg Saddler, Tony Dees, Clarence Daniel, Wally Bumpus and Mike Granger, who were either school record holders and/or SEC Champions. Saddler won an NCAA Indoor Championship in 1994 in the 55 meters under the direction of Walker. His 1984 and 1993 4x400 meter relay teams set what were SEC records at that time. Three of the top 100 meter runners in school history were coached by Walker, and four of the top five men's 400 meter times at Ole Miss were coached by Walker. In addition, all of the top five 400 meter hurdlers at Ole Miss were under the tutelage of Walker. Walker also coached Angie Clay, who is one of the most decorated female sprinters at Ole Miss and is now a member of the Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame.
Walker has also seen success in the hurdles. Early in his career, Walker coached Tony Dees, who won the 1992 Olympic silver medal. Antwon Hicks won two NCAA indoor 60 hurdle titles and one NCAA 110 meter runner-up finish, was a World Junior Champion and a semi-finalist in the 2004 Olympic Trials. John Yarbrough won the SEC indoor 60 meter hurdle title in 2007 and was the MidEast NCAA 110 meter hurdle champion en route to a runner-up finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. More recently, Lee Ellis Moore was a two-time All-American and the 2011 SEC Champion in the 400 meter hurdles.
In the women's heptathlon, Walker coached LaToya McBride to a runner-up finish in 2005, and his hepts scored in seven of the last eight SEC outdoor meets that he coached heptathletes. When coaching the high jump, Walker helped Brandy Barnett become the SEC runner-up in 1999, while Carmia Carroll made the USA World Junior team in 2005 and has participated in the NCAA meet. Reese, who became his second SEC high jump runner-up, won the Drake Relays and made the NCAA's, but chose to compete in only the long jump. Reese also was the SEC Indoor Champion in the high jump in 2008.
Nine out of the last 12 seasons Walker has had one of his collegiate athletes from his event area selected to compete internationally.
Over the year's Walker's teams have traditionally been outstanding in the classroom as well as on the track. Calvin Thigpen was a Rhodes Scholar and a GTE Academic-All American. Kirui was named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American team in 2007 and 2011, and Moore earned ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American accolades in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Sofie Persson joined that group in 2011. The Rebel track and field team is also well represented on the Honor Wall at the FedEx Academic Support Center as the track list is the longest of any of the Ole Miss sports.
Walker is a product of Mississippi. He was an outstanding all-around high school athlete at Utica High School in Utica, Miss. He played in the Mississippi High School All-Star basketball game following his senior year and enrolled at Ole Miss as a recipient of one of the first M-Club scholarships.
As a freshman at Ole Miss, he lettered in freshman basketball. As a sophomore, he managed the varsity basketball team. Yearning to be an athlete again led Walker to transfer to Mississippi College where he lettered in cross country, track and basketball.
Upon graduation from Mississippi College in 1969, he began his coaching career as an assistant coach in football, basketball and track at Meridian High School.
After Meridian High School won the state track championship, Walker's alma mater called and he immediately returned to Mississippi College as the new cross country and track and field coach.
Walker was born April 11, 1947, in Oxford, Miss. He is married to the former Faye Hall of Jackson, Miss. The couple has three sons, Joseph III, Brian and Luke. Joseph is the head cross country coach at the University of Louisville.
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