Aug. 20, 2012
OXFORD, Miss. - Ole Miss head coach Brian O'Neal has completed his first coaching staff for the Rebels' track & field and cross country programs.
The former Ole Miss track student-athlete and assistant coach, who went on to win national championships as a member of the coaching staff at Florida, has hired three new assistant coaches and retained assistant coaches Greg Stringer and Adam Judge from the previous staff.
New assistant coaches to the Rebel program are Gavin Kennedy, Erin Dawson and Lena Bettis.
Ole Miss Track and Field will also benefit from the assistance of several volunteer assistant coaches under O'Neal's watch.
"I am excited to be working with such a great group of people as we pursue excellence here at Ole Miss," O'Neal said. "Not only are they fantastic coaches on the track, they are great people who will represent the Rebel Nation well in all areas. I wanted to assemble a group of coaches who had championship-level pedigrees, and that's exactly what we got.
"We want to be a balanced program, and our goal is to be very strong in all six of our sports. Each of these coaches understands where the program is now and the direction we're headed."
Below are short capsules on each staff member.
Stringer is entering his fifth season at Ole Miss as a track and field assistant coach.
Working with jumpers and multi-event athletes at Ole Miss, Stringer's pupils have enjoyed a high level of success since his arrival in Oxford.
"Greg is a coach who I've known for a long time," O'Neal said. "I've had an opportunity to watch him within the SEC compete at a high level and have multiple SEC champions. Greg is just a phenomenal mind with jumps and I look forward to him helping me take our jumps even to the next level."
Stringer's work with Ricky Robertson has paid great dividends for Ole Miss. After three college seasons, Robertson has become a six-time All-American and five-time SEC champion in the high jump and has shattered the school record books in that event. Three times he has finished runner-up at the NCAA Championships, including both the indoor and outdoor championships as a sophomore in 2011.
Robertson soared to a mark of 7-7.25 at the Florida Relays in 2012 to break his own school record and claim the best jump in the world for much of the 2012 season. He competed internationally at the 2010 NACAC U-23 Championships, winning silver in the high jump. Another high jumper, Brian Knight, was a 2010 All-American.
The Rebel long jumpers have had success under Stringer, as well. Rachel Jenkins was crowned SEC outdoor champion in the women's long jump in 2012 and was the SEC indoor runner-up in 2010. Caleb Lee has earned All-America status three times in his career.
Multi-event competitors Fabia McDonald and Mary Ashton Nall have flourished under Stringer's tutelage. In 2012, McDonald was runner-up in the SEC outdoor heptathlon. She competed at both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships and was named an Indoor All-American in the pentathlon.
Both McDonald and Nall were heptathlon participants in the 2011 USA Junior Championships, and McDonald was tabbed the 2011 SEC Indoor Female Field Athlete of the Year after a school-record performance in the pentathlon.
Stringer came to Ole Miss after a very successful 10-year stint at Southern Mississippi, where he worked primarily with the Golden Eagle jumpers.
Stringer was a two-year letterwinner for Marshall Bell at Southern Miss as a junior and senior in both indoor and outdoor track during the 1993 and 1994 seasons. He competed in the high jump, long jump and the decathlon. He took fifth place in the decathlon at the Metro Championships in 1993, helping the Eagles win their second straight Metro Conference title. Stringer followed that Metro performance with a sixth-place finish in the 1994 championships.
He received his undergraduate degree in 1995 in sport administration and coaching with an emphasis in biological science from Southern Miss. He received his master's degree in education administration in 1999 at Southern Miss.
He is married to the former Angela Mickey of New Orleans, La. The couple has four children, Endia, Gregory, Erin Alexis and Gabrielle Elise.
Judge, a former NCAA All-American and Big Ten champion hammer thrower, is entering his second season as an assistant coach with Ole Miss Track and Field.
Judge coaches the Rebel throwers, a role he had served for the previous six years as an assistant coach at Indiana State.
"Adam is another great young coach who I've watched since he became a coach," O'Neal said. "I've always had him on my short list of throws coaches. To now have the opportunity to work with him day in and day out, I'm excited about the direction our throws are going. I've watched him work with underrated athletes and helped turn them into national championship-caliber athletes, and he's extremely important to what we're trying to do here at Ole Miss."
In Judge's first season in Oxford, Rebel throwers Benjamin Lapane and Fabia McDonald showed dramatic improvement in the javelin. Lapane threw a personal-best 216-10 to place sixth at the SEC Championships and move into the third position in the school record books. McDonald heaved a personal-best 145-4 during the SEC Championships heptathlon, which helped her place second in the hep and move into second in school record books.
During Judge's time at Indiana State, Sycamore throwers won 11 conference events and competed in the NCAA Championships on six separate occasions. He also served as the program's recruiting coordinator.
Among his many prized pupils, Judge mentored 2011 NCAA indoor weight throw champion Felisha Johnson, as well as 2011 Indoor All-American Kelsey Hanley. He guided Brandon Pounds to shot put and weight throw titles at the 2009 MVC Indoor Championships, as well as a shot put crown at the 2009 MVC Outdoor Championships.
An outstanding collegiate athlete in his own right, Judge was the 2003 Big Ten champion and a two-time All-American in the hammer throw while at Indiana University. Prior to becoming a Hoosier, he was a three-time NJCAA All-American and a national champion in the hammer throw while attending Barton Community College in Kansas.
After graduating from Indiana in 2003 with a B.S. in general studies, Judge served as a volunteer assistant coach with the Hoosiers. During that time, he trained and competed in the 2004 USA Olympic Trials in the hammer throw.
He and his wife, Beth, have two daughters: Maddison and Liv.
Kennedy will serve as an assistant coach for the Rebels, working primarily with the men's distance runners.
"We welcome Gavin to the Rebel Nation," O'Neal said. "He brings a wealth of knowledge to the position. Coming from Illinois, he will serve a similar role here in assisting me with the men's cross country program. He's had experience in working with national championship-caliber cross country teams, and I look forward to him helping me take our first men's cross country team to the national championships. He is an excellent teacher and recruiter, and we welcome him aboard."
Kennedy spent last year as head cross country coach and distance coach at Illinois after coaching three years on Iona's men's and women's cross country/track and field staff.
In his lone season in Champaign, the Illini sent two men to the NCAA Cross Country Championships for only the second time in school history. He also mentored Kyle Engnell to a spot in the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
During his tenure at Iona College, which included serving as an associate head coach of the program from 2010-11, Kennedy led the men's cross country squad to three consecutive top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships, including a second-place showing in 2008, and three straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championships. His athletes won a pair of individual NCAA titles on the track, which marked the first in school history, and earned a total of 11 All-America honors over his three years. In 2010-11, he helped the Gaels to a banner year, as the program finished sixth overall in the USTFCCCA Division I Program of the Year standings. Iona was one of 15 Division I programs to score at all three NCAA Championships in 2010-11.
Kennedy, a native of Waterford, Ireland, has an extensive background as both a distance performer and an assistant coach, having served in both capacities at his alma mater, DePaul. He was also an assistant at Northwestern University and Saint Louis before his time at Iona.
During his time as an undergrad at DePaul, Kennedy broke the two oldest records in DePaul history in the indoor mile and outdoor 1,500 meters. For his efforts, Kennedy was named MVP of the men's indoor track team in both 2004 and 2005 and was named to the all-conference team in all four of his years on the team.
As a competitor on the professional track and field circuit, Kennedy has been ranked in the top 15 in his native Ireland in the indoor mile and outdoor 1,500 meters. In 2004 he ranked No. 5 for the indoor mile, improving the standing to No. 4 the following year.
Kennedy earned a Bachelor of Science in physical education from DePaul in 2006 and is also a USTFCCCA certified endurance coach.
Dawson joins O'Neal's first Ole Miss track & field/cross country staff after spending five years as an assistant coach at Arizona.
Dawson will serve as an assistant coach, primarily working with the women's distance runners.
"Erin is a young coach that brings a lot of enthusiasm to the position," O'Neal said. "She has a great reputation for recruiting, and I'm looking forward to her helping me achieve my goal of getting our women's cross country team into the top tier at SEC's and competing in its first NCAA meet."
While at Arizona, Dawson coached the men's and women's distance runners and assisted with recruiting. During her time there, she helped guide Wildcat runners to NCAA titles and numerous All-America accolades.
In the 2011-12 season, Dawson helped mentor Lawi Lalang to an NCAA Cross Country Championship, as well as a pair of NCAA Indoor titles in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters. He was named the USTFCCCA Men's Cross Country Athlete of the Year and the Men's Indoor Athlete of the Year. Lalang and his teammate, Stephen Sambu, produced numerous Pac-12 titles and All-America honors during the season.
The Arizona men's team finished third at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships, its highest finish in school history. The women's cross country team placed 19th at the 2011 NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Dawson was an assistant coach for two years at Northern Arizona University prior to her move to Tucson.
In her final season with the Lumberjacks in 2006-07, Dawson played an integral part in coaching the men's team to a fourth-place finish and the women's team to a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. This marked the first time NAU posted two top-eight team finishes in the school history.
In her time at NAU, Lopez Lomong won two NCAA titles in the indoor 3,000 meters and the outdoor 1,500 meters.
Dawson assisted the NAU women to win both the indoor and outdoor Big Sky Conference championships in 2006. Johanna Nilsson claimed NCAA Championship titles in the indoor mile and 3,000 meters, en route to being named the NCAA Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.
As a student-athlete, Dawson helped guide the Texas Longhorns to the 2003 NCAA Cross Country Championships. On the track, Dawson contributed conference efforts in the mile, 3,000 meters and steeplechase. She was a member of the 2004 Big 12 Outdoor Championship team.
A native of The Woodlands, Texas, Dawson is a 2004 graduate of the University of Texas. After earning bachelor's degrees in Spanish and history, she returned to earn a post baccalaureate degree in secondary education. She received her master's degree in educational psychology with an emphasis in school counseling while at NAU.
O'Neal tabbed Bettis to serve as an assistant coach on his first Ole Miss track and field staff. She will assist with the Rebels' sprints and relay units.
"Lena is a young coach that I think has a lot of potential," O'Neal said. "She is a rising star in the recruiting world. She comes here from the Big Ten in a couple of different systems at Penn State as an athlete winning championships and then at Michigan State as a coach. She has been around winning programs and will help us a lot here at Ole Miss."
Bettis comes to Oxford after a two-year stint as an assistant coach with the Michigan State track and field program.
In her two years at MSU, she helped develop Tori Franklin and Ashley Stacey into record-setting jumpers. In 2012, Franklin set a school record in the triple jump and earned indoor and outdoor All-America honors. She placed third at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and runner-up at the Big Ten Indoor Championships.
In 2011, Stacey achieved a school record in the long jump and advanced to the NCAA Championships in that event after scoring in the long and triple jumps at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
Bettis spent the previous two seasons as a volunteer assistant at her alma mater, Penn State.
The Riverside, Calif., native was a four-year letterwinner and a two-time NCAA Regional qualifier for the Nittany Lions prior to her assignment as an assistant. She also was a member of the school-record sprint medley relay squad that posted a time of 3:52.25 in 2007 at the Penn State Relays. In her final year of eligibility, Bettis posted a career-best leap of 42-9.5 in the triple jump at the 2008 Big Ten Championships, aiding in the Nittany Lions' first of three-straight Big Ten Outdoor team titles.
Over the course of her time at Penn State, the Nittany Lions won three Big Ten Outdoor team championships and a Big Ten Indoor championship. On the national stage, PSU finished fourth at the 2010 NCAA Track & Field Outdoor Championships.
Bettis graduated from Penn State in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism.