When the number of championships a coach won dwarfs the number of years that coach spent in the profession, then said coach clearly left a lasting impact on his sport. It’s safe to say Ron Mann, who won 66 conference titles in 33 years on the collegiate level, did exactly that.
Mann began his coaching career in 1972 as an assistant at Mesa Community College in Arizona following a standout career as an athlete at Northern Arizona University. Mann most notably helped the Lumberjacks to the 1971 Big Sky Conference title in cross country and a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Championships that same year.
Following eight years between Mesa CC and Sunnyslope High School in Phoenix – his prep alma mater – Mann returned to Flagstaff as the head coach of the women’s cross country and track & field programs at Northern Arizona. Mann took over the reins of both the men’s and women’s programs in 1982 and what transpired over the next 22 years was nothing short of legendary.
From 1982 to 2004, Mann’s teams dominated the Big Sky Conference. The Lumberjacks won their first Big Sky Conference team title in 1984 (men’s cross country) and didn’t stop until they chopped down 57 more, including 13 more in men’s cross country, 11 in women’s cross country, 11 in men’s indoor track & field, eight in women’s indoor track & field, nine in men’s outdoor track & field, and five in women’s outdoor track & field.
Mann-led athletes at NAU also shined on the national level. The Lumberjacks finished in the top-10 16 different times at NCAAs as a team, hauled in 107 All-America honors and won four individual NCAA crowns – the first from Angela Chalmers at the 1986 NCAA DI Cross Country Championships; the last from Ida Nilsson in the steeplechase at the 2004 NCAA DI Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Mann retired from NAU in 2004 to focus on coaching the U.S. men’s track & field team at the 2005 IAAF World Championships, but found his way back into the collegiate ranks that same year as the Director of Cross Country and Track & Field at Louisville.
Over the next nine years, the Cardinals thrived under Mann’s direction.
Mann’s teams won eight BIG EAST titles, nabbed 47 All-America honors and four individual NCAA championships and placed in the top-10 of the NCAA Championships three times. The Louisville women’s track & field program won five consecutive outdoor titles from 2008 to 2012 – a feat only matched by one other program in conference history (Georgetown’s men from 1995 to 1999).
Mann also spent the later parts of his collegiate coaching career in administrative roles with the USTFCCCA. He was the Second Vice President of the NCAA Division I Track & Field Executive Committee from 2006 to 2009, the First Vice President of that same committee from 2009 to 2011 and then served as President from 2011 to 2013.
He retired from collegiate coaching in 2013 and currently coaches athletes at the marathon distance, most notably 2012 Boston Marathon champion Wesley Korir.