Thirty-three years ago, USTFCCCA Hall of Fame coach Dr. Joe Vigil hired a young upstart by the name of Damon Martin as the graduate assistant for the women’s cross country and track & field program at Adams State University. Martin had just wrapped up a sterling four-year career as a member of the University of Arkansas-Monticello cross country and track & field team where he finished as runner-up in the 1500 at the 1985 NAIA Outdoor Championships.
The rest, as they often say, is history.
Martin learned how to build championship programs by watching Vigil, and when Martin was promoted to head coach of the women’s program in 1989 and taking over that same role on the men’s program seven years later, he left his own stamp on the record books.
Adams State has won 35 national team titles and 94 conference team titles in the past 29 years under Martin’s direction. The Grizzlies have garnered more than 1,000 combined All-America honors and won more than 100 individual national crowns during that same span.
Martin got his first taste of a national championship in 1988 when he was the interim leader of the men’s cross country team, as Vigil handed off the reins so he could focus on coaching at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. That was the sixth-consecutive crown for Adams State and one of 12 that it captured at the NAIA level in cross country.
It didn’t take long for Martin to win his first national title as the coach on record. And once that happened the following year – in his first year as head coach of the women’s cross country and track & field teams, at that – the floodgates opened.
From 1989 to the conclusion of the most recent academic year, there have only been five years in which the Grizzlies didn’t win a national title of some sort in cross country or track & field. It’s safe to say Adams State has been a fixture on top of the podium.
The women’s cross country team has won the lioness’ share of those team trophies. After a pair of national titles in 1989 and 1991 that wrapped up their stay in the NAIA, the Grizzlies have feasted at the NCAA Division II level. Adams State has won 17 NCAA DII crowns, including eight in a row from 1992 to 1999, seven in a row from 2003 to 2009 and most recently in 2017.
The men’s cross country team matched the women this past year and completed the fifth sweep of the NCAA DII team titles in school history with Martin at the helm. Martin also has guided the men’s program to five additional team titles in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016.
Six of Martin’s national titles so far have come in track & field with an even split down the middle between the men (three) and women (three).
With the strength of Martin’s men’s program over the years at the NCAA DII level, the USTFCCCA named the Men’s Program of the Year honor in that division after him. Adams State captured the Damon Martin Division II Men’s Program of the Year nine consecutive times between 2008 and 2017.
Martin served as President of the USTFCCCA in 2015 and 2016 and NCAA Division II Executive Council Chairman from 2012 to 2014, among other roles over the years.