While Tom Donnelly of Haverford has said the impact a coach makes on a student-athlete is “maybe one percent,” the long-running thread of successes his Haverford men’s track & field and cross country squads have achieved during his 40-year-and-counting career as the head coach of the Fords (known colloquially as the Goats in cross country) says otherwise.
Since taking over at the small liberal arts school of little more than 1,000 students in 1975, Donnelly has become one of the most influential distance coaches in the country. Even though numerous world-class athletes have trained under his tutelage over the years – including sub-3:50 milers Marcus O’Sullivan and Sydney Maree – Donnelly has remained loyal to the program he built in Haverford.
That program-building culminated in 2010 with his cross country team winning the school’s first-ever national team title, led by individual national champion Anders Hulleberg and five All-Americans. The team title is part of a streak of 21 consecutive team appearances at the NCAA Championships, and a overall total of 31 team appearances.
Hulleberg was the third national cross country champion Donnelly coached, along with Seamus McElligott in 1990 and JB Haglund in 2001, and his All-Americans were among 32 different men who have earned the honor in cross country during his tenure.
He has been equally as successful on the track as on the trails, with 66 men having earned outdoor All-America honors and 59 earning the award indoors – including 15 outdoor event champions and 10 indoor champions.
His teams have dominated at the conference level both indoors and out. Since the Centennial Conference was formed in 1994, Donnelly’s Fords have claimed 18 of 21 outdoor track & field team titles and 17 of 21 indoor team crowns.
Those victories were powered by the largest number of event champions in conference history. His men have combined for 106 event wins at the Centennial Conference Outdoor Championships, and 130 indoors.
Before beginning his legendary Haverford coaching career, he contributed to the track & field and cross country legacy of another historic Pennsylvania institution in Villanova. He was a member of a Wildcats program from 1966 through 1969 that won three-straight NCAA cross country team titles and another in track & field.