With 44 years of coaching between the collegiate and high school levels, Dennis Craddock has amassed a legendary resume that includes two women’s NCAA cross country team titles (1981, ’82), a women’s indoor NCAA team title (1982), and an unparalleled 45 ACC team titles via coaching tenures at Virginia and North Carolina.
His nine seasons at Virginia built the foundations for what would become an all-time great career, as his 1981 women’s cross country team recorded an NCAA Championships-record winning score of just 36 points, with four finishers in the top 12 and seven All-America honorees. The 1982 squad again claimed the title, this time with 48 points — the second-lowest score in NCAA women’s history — led by winner and ACC individual champion Lesley Welch and three other All-Americans. His men’s teams also found success at the national level with a fifth place finish in 1984. A combined 16 women’s and three men’s cross country All-America honors were earned under his watch.
In between the two women’s cross country titles came an indoor national title in 1982 that featured a staggering 17 All-America performances — a large portion of the 45 indoor All-America honors his women earned along with nine outdoor awards. The men claimed 14 total track & field All-America certificates.
Craddock’s women’s teams went on to win the first three ACC outdoor titles after the conference began to sponsor the sport in 1983. His men’s outdoor teams finished runner-up twice during his tenure and no worse than fourth.
He made the move to Chapel Hill in 1986 to become the head coach of North Carolina for 27 years, where he mentored 25 individual Tar Heel student-athletes to a combined 38 individual NCAA titles and coached 19 Olympians who went on to claim five gold and two bronze medals.
Prior to Craddock’s arrival at North Carolina, the Tar Heel women had not yet won an ACC title; Craddock changed that quickly and in a big way. His women’s teams would go on to win 15 indoor ACC titles and 14 outdoor titles, while his men’s teams won two indoor titles and four outdoor crowns. In the period between 1988 and 2004, Craddock’s women’s team claimed indoor titles in all but two seasons and took the outdoor title in all but three.
His women’s teams swept the cross country, indoor and outdoor ACC titles in both 1994-95 and 2003-04, a feat not yet accomplished by any other women’s program in conference history. The 1994-95 campaign was particularly special, as the women claimed all three ACC titles and the men swept the track & field championships.
His Carolina track & field teams were also successful at the national level, as the women finished top-10 14 times (9 indoor/5 outdoor) at the NCAA Championships and the men accomplished that feat six times (4 outdoor/2 indoor). The women finished fourth overall twice indoors, while the men finished as high as fourth outdoors in 1996.
He served as a head coach of the Gretna and Albemarle (Va.) High School track and field teams for eight years before entering the college ranks. His high school teams compiled a 117-8 dual meet record, claimed three state crowns, and produced four individual national champions.