July 21, 2015
OXFORD, Miss. – The future of the Ole Miss track & field and cross country programs will be in the strong hands of four-time U.S. Olympian Connie Price-Smith, who was announced as the Rebels’ newest head coach Tuesday by athletics director Ross Bjork.
Price-Smith brings an impressive resumé of credentials to Oxford from her days as an athlete and as a coach. Last week, she was named women’s head coach for Team USA at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“This is a transformational day for Ole Miss Track & Field and Cross Country,” Bjork said. “Selecting Connie Price-Smith as our new head coach sets the course for a new era of success in all phases of our program. Her experience as a four-time Olympian, world-class athlete and now the 2016 USA Women’s Olympic head coach, indicates she is one of the most respected members of the track and field community and is more than prepared for this opportunity. From our first conversation earlier this summer and her visit to campus last week, we could tell Coach Price-Smith was a perfect fit to lead our program and create a new normal for the Ole Miss track program academically and athletically. We welcome Connie and her husband John to the Ole Miss family. It’s a great day for Ole Miss!”
“I am honored to be a part of the Ole Miss family, and I would like to thank Ross Bjork, Shannon Singletary and the rest of the administrative staff for this incredible opportunity,” Price-Smith said. “I look forward to meeting the athletes on the team, assembling a staff and working together to build a future that will make Ole Miss proud.
“While it saddens me to leave my alma mater, the great athletes there, the staff that had become my family and the community that always stood behind me, I am excited to become a Rebel!”
Over the last 14 seasons as head coach at 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, 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).
“When the hiring committee set out to find the best person to lead the Ole Miss track and field program, our priority was to find a great leader, administrator and technical coach,” said Shannon Singletary, senior associate athletics director and sport administrator for track and field. “Connie has proven through her years of work with NCAA committees, USA Track & Field and through her excellent leadership at the Division I level that she no doubt should be the leader of our program. Her previous teams’ NCAA rankings and conference championships have also proven her ability to coach at the highest level. We are so fortunate to add a person like Connie to our Ole Miss family as we continue striving to develop students to their fullest potential through athletics.”
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 (McCall) 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.
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).
During her 15-year 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.
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.
Price-Smith is a 1985 graduate of Southern Illinois University. She has been married to her longtime throws coach John Smith since 1990.
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