A fixture in the West Coast distance coaching scene for nearly a half-century, Jim Hunt created a lasting legacy at Humboldt State which was affirmed with an NCAA Division II men’s cross country title in 1980.
During his tenure at Humboldt State from 1967 to 1986, Hunt’s teams in cross country and track & field won six Far Western Conference titles and produced 64 All-Americans and 11 national champions, culminating in the 1980 national title in the school’s first year in Division II.
Hunt’s prized pupils included Mark Conover, who won the 10,000 meters Division II title in 1981 and followed that up with the individual cross country title that fall. Conover would earn nine All-America honors among all NCAA divisions, competing in a time when Division II and III champions would be invited to compete in the Division I championships. Conover would go on to represent the United States as a marathoner at the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.
Prior to the move to Division II, Humboldt State competed at the Division III level, where the men’s cross country program finished runner-up three of its last four seasons in 1976, 1977 and 1979. With a score of 152, Hunt’s 1977 squad was barely edged out by champion Occidental with 149 points.
Hunt’s impact on the school’s track & field program resounds to the present day, as 10 men’s school records in track & field that were set during his time there remain atop the program’s all-time record books, including all four distance events ranging from 1500 meters to 10,000 meters.
Following his run at Humboldt State he was hired as the head track & field and cross country coach at UC Davis from 1989 to 1993, where he guided the women’s cross country program to a runner-up finish at the 1991 NCAA Division II cross country championships with four All-Americans, among three other top-10 team finishes. The men’s cross program finished fourth that same season with two All-America selections.
His men’s track & field teams finished in the top 20 at the NCAA Division II outdoor championships in three of his four seasons, while the women finished as high as tied for 24th. Between both cross country and track & field at UC Davis during this four-year stretch, 28 student-athletes claimed All-America honors.
Hunt moved on to Sierra College to serve as the school’s head cross country and track & field coach from 1993 to 2000.
He returned to UC Davis as an assistant distance coach in 2000 before his retirement in 2003. His indoor and outdoor track & field runners combined for 26 All-America honors during that four-year stretch.
In addition to his collegiate coaching career, he also coached the USATF Men’s Development distance and middle distance programs from 1981 to 1992; served as the West Team coach at the U.S. Sports Festival in 1981; and was the international director of distance running and racewalking for Special Olympics International. He has continued to hold clinics for distance runners and coaches even following his retirement from collegiate coaching.