USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame Class of 2022 Announced
NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) is privileged to announce the six coaches who will be inducted into the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2022!
Josh Culbreath, Greg Kraft, Halston Taylor, Art Venegas, Mark Wetmore and Sue Williams will all be enshrined in the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame, for not only their historic and incredible accomplishments as cross country and/or track & field coaches, but also the long-lasting impact their contributions have had – and will continue to have – on the sports they coached.
QUICK LINK: USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame History
These six coaches will be honored at the 2022 USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Presented by REKORTAN on Tuesday, December 13, at the USTFCCCA Convention, held at the Gaylord Rockies Resort Hotel and Convention Center outside of Denver, Colorado.
Started in 1995, the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame exists to recognize coaches who have brought great distinction to themselves, to their institutions and to the sports of cross country and track & field. Each of the honorees exemplifies the qualities of dedication to the sport, leadership and passion for their profession and serves as an inspiration to coaches everywhere.
Keep reading to learn more about the Class of 2022.
How many people have been recognized by two sitting U.S. Presidents?
Josh Culbreath was – once for his athletic career (Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1959) and another for his coaching accomplishments (Bill Clinton, 1994), which have now landed him in the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame.
Culbreath’s first and only coaching position didn’t come about easily. A native of the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown, Culbreath was being courted in the late 1980s by two Philadelphia natives – Central State University President Arthur Thomas and Athletic Director Billy Joe – hoping to lure Culbreath to Wilberforce, Ohio.
The Marauders hadn’t seen glory days in track & field since the 1960s with the likes of Martin McGrady (world record setter in the 600 yards) and long jumper Clifton Mayfield (an NCAA champion).
“They had to do quite a bit of talking to get me to come here because I had only been in Ohio one other time in my life,” Culbreath explained in 1989 to Dave Long of the Dayton Daily News. “That was in Dayton in 1953 when I won my first AAU national championship in a meet at Welcome Stadium.”
“But they’ve got me here and the word is out that Central State is beginning to build in track again. I know this is football country, but I think we can build a nice little track empire here.”
An empire it became indeed.
In just eight years on the job, Culbreath led the Marauders to otherworldly heights: a total of ten NAIA track & field teams titles and eight other runner-up finishes; and his athletes won a total of 91 event titles. His women won four consecutive NAIA outdoor titles from 1991 to 1994.
The zenith of the Culbreath era at CSU came in 1993, when the Marauders unprecedentedly swept the men’s and women’s team titles at both the NAIA Indoor and Outdoor Championships. The Marauders nearly pulled it off again in 1994 when they won two of the four national titles and finished runner-up twice (men won the indoor crown and finished second outdoors; women took runner-up honors indoors and won the outdoor title). Culbreath and the CSU track & field teams were later honored by President Clinton in the White House Rose Garden in June 1994.
Four of his athletes competed in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, led by Deon Hemmings, who won the 400-meter hurdles in becoming the first Jamaican woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Another of his standouts was Carolin Sterling, the first woman to win five NAIA indoor event titles in amassing a total of 12 with her outdoor exploits.
Culbreath left CSU in the summer of 1996 – when the school shuttered its entire athletic program for financial reasons – for the athletic director position at Morehouse College. Several years later, when CSU brought back its athletic program, Culbreath’s son Jahan was brought on as the track & field coach. Jahan would later become CSU’s athletic director and now serves as an administrator at the university.
Jahan discovered the first time his dad had been recognized by a U.S. President. After Josh’s death on July 1, 2021 at the age of 88, Jahan found a scrapbook and turned the pages to find something for the first time.
“It was a letter of congratulations – dated December 12, 1959 – from President Dwight Eisenhower,” Jahan told Tom Archdeacon of the Dayton Daily News.
“They’d had a special day in Norristown for my dad and Al Cantello (the Olympic javelin thrower and longtime U.S. Naval Academy coach who was inducted into the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame in 2013). Eisenhower wrote a special note to Dad.”
Culbreath had just won the second of his two golds in the Pan-American Games earlier that summer, the last of his major achievements as a 400-meter hurdler despite standing just 5-foot-7. He wasn’t a stranger to global medals, as he famously won bronze in that same event at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games as part of a 1-2-3 American sweep.
The elder Culbreath competed collegiately at Morgan State under the direction of USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame member Edward P. Hurt. Culbreath won three consecutive AAU national titles in the 440-yard hurdles between 1953 and 1955, years in which the event wasn’t held at the national collegiate level.
Among the Halls of Fame which have inducted Culbreath are Morgan State University Athletics (1975), Central State University Marauder Athletics (2007), United States Marine Corps Sports (2008) and Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (2013). He was an inaugural member of the Penn Relays Wall of Fame in 1994 and was the meet’s first three-time winner of the 400 hurdles.
A 19-year-old Greg Kraft told his hometown newspaper he intended to be a college coach “sooner or later.”
“I think I’d really enjoy it and I think I’d be a pretty good coach,” he remarked to Steve Tadevich of The Argus (Fremont, California) in the summer of 1974.
Kraft far outshot his prediction, as nearly 50 years later he is included in the Class of 2022 into the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame. He left his positive mark on five programs in his 40-year coaching career, transforming two of those into national powers when he added director and head coaching responsibilities to his reputation as an excellent technical coach.
The majority of his career – 23 years, to be exact – came at Arizona State, where he transitioned from coach to administrator in 2019 after what he termed a “wonderful ride” as the Director of Track & Field and Cross Country.
That expedition started at the lowest of moments, when Arizona State was looking for a coach while its track & field program was on probation. ASU athletic director Kevin White changed the direction on July 28, 1996, when his national search for a new track & field leader lured Kraft away from a burgeoning power he was building at South Carolina.
“This is a huge day for us, a huge appointment,” ASU AD Kevin White said. “We couldn’t be more excited over this. This makes a whole lot of sense. He has impeccable integrity, is committed to the student-athlete, is a strong, determined leader and a proven recruiter. And you need a CEO-type to be your track & field coach.”
Kraft not only righted the Sun Devil ship, but began a renaissance for ASU track & field, amassing multiple team championships that put ASU and Kraft in exclusive company.
In 2007, Kraft led the ASU women’s program to a sweep of the NCAA Division I indoor and outdoor championships, joining LSU and Texas as the only programs with that achievement. Then in 2008, Kraft became just the second head coach to lead men’s and women’s programs to NCAA Division I national team crowns in the same year after sweeping the NCAA DI Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Those four NCAA titles are among ASU’s 12 top-five finishes at the NCAA DI Indoor or Outdoor Track & Field Championships under Kraft’s leadership, and Sun Devil athletes combined for 38 NCAA event titles under his direction.
Kraft earned multiple coaching honors at Arizona State. Four times he was named USTFCCCA National Coach of the Year, along with seven times as the West Region Coach of the Year. Three times he was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year.
Two of his most successful athletes were Dwight Phillips, a seven-time All-American in just two years at ASU, who continued under Kraft as a post-collegian to win Olympic gold in the 2004 long jump, and Jackie Johnson, a seven-time NCAA champion in the heptathlon/pentathlon who was among the inaugural class inducted to the National Collegiate Track & Field/Cross Country Hall of Fame.
Kraft worked wonders at his other head coaching job, bringing South Carolina from the Metro Conference to the Southeastern Conference, where the Gamecocks were initially near the bottom of team standings. By his final season in 1996, South Carolina was top-5 in the SEC with a high of runner-up in the women’s outdoor competition, earning Kraft SEC Women’s Coach of the Year honors.
Kraft’s coaching journey began at his alma mater, Cal Poly, where he met at least two important people. One was Steve Miller, a 2005 inductee in the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame who gave him a graduate assistant position and then two years later followed with an offer to be assistant coach at Kansas State after Kraft spent one year at Indiana State. He spent four years with the Wildcats before being hired away by Virginia, where he also worked for four years as an assistant before South Carolina came calling.
The other important person Kraft met at Cal Poly was his future wife, Maggie Keyes, who won national titles in the mile (1980 TAC Indoor) and 1500 (1980 AIAW Outdoor) and represented the U.S. in the inaugural World Championships in 1983 in the 3000 meters. The Krafts have two sons, Kyle and Cory, who both graduated from ASU.
Halston Taylor made a home – and an impact – at MIT.
So much so that, after his retirement in December 2021, the MIT Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER) created an endowment in his name for the position of Director of Cross Country and Track & Field Operations/Head Coach.
Who would have thought that Taylor, one of the fastest harriers over 1500 meters to ever come out of the University of South Carolina track & field program, would eventually spend nearly 40 years building MIT into a perennial national and regional powerhouse in NCAA Division III?
Taylor sure didn’t, but the career eventually caught up to the former 4:05 miler.
“I actually never really planned on coaching, but the opportunities seemed to keep falling in my lap,” Taylor told TrackYack in February 2018. “My plan was to get my PhD in Exercise Physiology, but some things got in the way, so I stopped avoiding the coaching opportunities.”
Taylor actually started coaching long before he commenced his career in Massachusetts at Granby High School and Mohawk Trail Regional School after receiving his master’s in Exercise Physiology from UMass Amherst. He told TrackYack, “I coached myself [in college] due to not having a coach with the exception of my freshman year at South Carolina.” Turns out that Taylor had a knack for it, after all, setting a 1500m PR of 3:47.14 in 1976 that is still among the fastest in program annals (Taylor is ranked fourth as of August 2022 – nearly 47 years later).
Fast forward to September 15, 1982: Taylor landed in Cambridge.
Skip ahead to December 11, 2021: Taylor rides off into the sunset.
Between those dates, Taylor engineered a Hall-of-Fame career at MIT in which his teams finished top-10 at the NCAA Championships 33 times, won 68 combined New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) titles, 44 New England Division III Track & Field Championships and 10 cross-country regional crowns. Taylor’s men won each of the 22 cross country titles awarded by the NEWMAC since the sport was first offered in 1998, while his women snagged 14 in a row from 2007 to 2021. The Engineers also swept the men’s and women’s outdoor track & field slate clean in 2007 and then from 2009 to 2019.
Nestled amongst that team success were 12 podium finishes – nine by the women’s program alone. Five of those nine top-4 placements came in 2011 and 2015, which led to MIT being named the Deb Vercauteren NCAA Division III Women’s Program of the Year in each of those years, an award given out to the top-finishing institution at each of the NCAA Championships (cross country, indoor track & field, outdoor track & field). The Engineer women went 3-3-4 in 2011 and just missed another podium three-peat in 2015 with a 3-4-5 combination. (Not to be outdone, MIT’s men were named the Al Carius NCAA Division III Men’s Program of the Year in 2022, buoyed by a runner-up finish in cross country – Taylor’s last season on the job.)
Individual accolades were plentiful for the Engineers under Taylor’s diligent direction as well. MIT athletes collected 17 individual NCAA titles and more than 350 All-America plaudits. On top of that, the Engineers earned 13 NCAA Elite 90 awards, bestowed to student-athletes with the highest cumulative GPA participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s 90 championships.
Taylor’s coaching award trophy case is just as bountiful. He is a 23-time USTFCCCA Regional Coach of the Year and a 46-time NEWMAC Coach of the Year honoree.
“When I was fortunate enough to get the initial position of men’s head cross country coach and men’s assistant track and field coach in 1982, I had no plans, or sense of remaining at MIT for what would end up being 39½ years,” Taylor said when he announced his retirement. “What kept me here were myriad situations and opportunities; the fact that MIT is an excellent place to work for both me and my family, the mentorship and leadership supplied by (former MIT head coach) Gordon Kelly in my early years, and the amazing opportunity to work with the best and brightest student-athletes in the world. This job never seemed like work.”
For more than 40 years, Art Venegas left an indelible mark on the sport of track & field.
Whether it was as an All-American thrower at Cal State Northridge, as a coach whose athletes dominated the collegiate and professional ranks or as a mentor whose charges have tutored their own champions and record-breakers, Venegas created a Hall-of-Fame legacy.
Venegas almost didn’t go into coaching. Story has it that Venegas planned to go to law school after earning double undergraduate degrees in political science and Spanish, but improved so much in his sophomore season at CSUN that his focus shifted to the nuances of the sport and learning how to make a difference with his knowledge of it.
So when former Matador assistant Frank Carl left the program after the 1975 outdoor season, he suggested to head coach Cliff Abel that Venegas take over the reins of the event group. It didn’t take long for Abel to decide and, as they say, the rest is history.
Venegas led CSUN throwers to three NCAA titles and nine All-America honors from 1976 to 1979. Steve Albright (1976, shot put), Norman Finke (1979, hammer) and Joe Straub (1979, discus) all won individual titles under Venegas’ direction and the Matadors finished third at the 1979 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships largely due to their throwers.
After a brief two-year stint at Cal State Long Beach (now known as Long Beach State), Venegas made his way to UCLA in 1982. And it is with the Bruins where Venegas created a juggernaut of a throws program, one that would decimate the collegiate ranks over the next 28 years.
Where does one start when it comes to detailing UCLA’s dominance in the throws under Venegas? Would they start with the 33 NCAA titles in those events? Or the more than 175 All-America honors? Perhaps it would be the 67 conference titles the Bruins won thanks to Venegas’ no-nonsense approach?
Here’s one way of looking at it: UCLA had a thrower on top of the podium at the NCAA Indoor or Outdoor Championships in all but four years between 1990 and 2002. There were four years during that span in which the Bruins double-dipped with at least one male athlete and one female athlete winning NCAA titles in the same year (1991, 1993, 1995 and 1996). It didn’t hurt that UCLA’s men scored in throwing events at each of the NCAA Championships since 1983.
The Bruins won so many NCAA titles under Venegas’ watch because he put numerous athletes in positions to compete at the biggest meets of the season. There are 18 instances of programs scoring four athletes in an event at the NCAA Championships as of 2021. Narrow it down even further, only seven of those 18 instances happened in throwing events in nearly 100 years. Of which, three belonged to UCLA with Venegas at the helm.
Many former Bruins still dot the collegiate record book in various ways.
John Godina, who won five NCAA titles under Venegas’ direction, still holds the collegiate shot-put record of 22.00m (72-2¼), which another former UCLA athlete held before him (John Brenner). On that note, Brenner and Godina are just two of the men Venegas coached who eclipsed the 22-meter mark in the shot put: Joe Kovacs and Darrell Hill are also in that group.
Suzy Powell and Seilala Sua are both among the top-10 best performers in collegiate history in the women’s discus at 65.22m (214-0) and 64.89m (212-11), respectively. And Sua is the only female athlete in the history of the NCAA DI Outdoor Championships to win four consecutive titles in the same throwing event, which she did from 1997 to 2000 in the discus.
After UCLA, Venegas continued coaching medal-winning throwers at the elite level and eventually retired from the profession after a stint as the Performance Consultant to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.
Venegas’ legacy will endure, as many of his former athletes – like Brian Blutreich, Don Babbitt, David Dumble and John Frazier, among others – have carried on the championship and record-breaking tradition as coaches.
And, in the midst of his legendary career, Venegas was named one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the U.S. by Hispanic Business Magazine in October 1998.
November 6, 1995.
That’s the day distance running changed at the NCAA Division I level.
Because that was when Mark Wetmore became just the sixth head cross country and track & field coach in the now 90-plus-year history of the University of Colorado athletic program.
Truthfully, the winds of change began to blow even sooner than that when the Buffaloes welcomed Wetmore as a volunteer assistant coach of the men’s distance program in 1992. Wetmore spent four years at Seton Hall University from 1988 to 1992 and 14 years before that at Bernards High School from 1974 to 1988 before arriving in Boulder.
But if you go back to Wetmore’s coaching genesis, it was quite simple.
“I started coaching because it was offered to me,” Wetmore told LetsRun back in 2004 of his tutoring a municipal children’s team, known as the Edge City Track Club, in his hometown of Bernardsville, New Jersey. “It was a summer job. It fit with another summer job. It was an evening deal. And I liked money. So I said, ‘Can I work a regular 9-5 or 8-4 job and then pick up this other evening thing and make some money?’ That’s all it was.”
It turns out that Wetmore had a gift for coaching and recruiting. Soon, Wetmore encouraged the parents of those children to start running, Wetmore had a squadron of runners aged 8-60 competing around town under the banner of the new Mine Mt. Road Department. Many of those younger athletes grew up to compete for Wetmore at Bernards High School and would go on to have fruitful collegiate careers.
Wetmore found his calling in coaching, but truly hit his stride at the collegiate level – specifically in the running mecca that is Boulder, Colorado. In fact, Wetmore was so focused on being in “The Berkeley of the Rockies” that he quit his job at Seton Hall, packed up all of his belongings and moved out to the Centennial State in 1992 with very little to his name.
It didn’t take long for Wetmore to be hired at CU by former head coach Jerry Quiller as a volunteer assistant coach in charge of the men’s distance athletes. Three years later, Wetmore took over the program and molded the Buffs into an absolute force.
Nearly 30 years into Wetmore’s tenure, CU squads have achieved unrivaled combined success at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships with eight national titles in more than 25 trips to the podium (most recently in 2019 with the men), five individual champions (most recently in 2018 with Dani Jones) and more than 140 All-America honors (nine alone in 2018). During the 2004 season, the Buffs became only the third program in meet history to sweep the team titles, joining Wisconsin in 1985 and Stanford in 1996. Wetmore later led the men to back-to-back national titles in 2013 and 2014 (CU’s quest for a three-peat was derailed by Syracuse in 2015).
Wetmore is the only coach in NCAA DI history to win both the men’s and women’s team and individual cross country championships. In fact, Wetmore has done so twice thus far.
The Buffs have been equally as impressive at the conference level in cross country, winning more than 30 league crowns and more than individual titles between the Big 12 Conference and the Pac-12 Conference. In fact, Wetmore was the winningest Big 12 coach in all sports when CU left the conference in 2011. Then the Buffs won the first six men’s team titles in the Pac-12, including the inaugural crown in 2012.
Don’t discount what Wetmore’s athletes have done on the track, either. In addition to more than 100 individual conference titles and two conference team titles, CU men and women have combined to win more than 20 NCAA individual titles, earn more than 200 All-America laurels and establish seven collegiate records, including five alone by 2009 The Bowerman winner Jenny Barringer (now Simpson).
Domestic and international success have been calling cards of Wetmore’s athletes, many of whom he still coaches post-collegiately, including Simpson. Current and former CU athletes have combined for more than 20 Olympic team berths, more than 30 World Championship team berths and more than 60 appearances at the World Cross Country Championships. Two of those athletes, Emma Coburn (steeple) and Simpson (1500), won World Championship gold and Olympic bronze in their respective events.
Sandwiched between that Hall-of-Fame-worthy fortune, Chris Lear chronicled CU’s 1998 season – Wetmore’s third as head coach – in his best-selling book, “Running with the Buffaloes.” That year, Adam Goucher became just the second CU athlete to win an individual title at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, which paced the men’s team to a third-place finish.
The road for Sue Williams into the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame started back before the days when Title IX was passed more than 50 years ago.
Williams was coaching tennis at Arkansas and then volleyball initially at UC Davis when she took up a challenge from the UCD administration in 1972 to transform cross country from a club activity to a varsity sport.
She already had a deep love for track & field and delivered immediately, amassing 50+ female students for a tryout in 1973. By 1975 – the first year the AIAW conducted national women’s cross country championships – Tena Anex of UCD finished national runner-up.
When the NCAA added women’s sports in 1981, Williams’ Aggies were more than ready, beginning a run of ten consecutive years of finishing top-10 at the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships.
Williams was acknowledged after that run as the NCAA Division II Women’s Coach of the Decade following the first 10 years of women’s sports by the NCAA.
After Anex, more athletes succeeded under the watch of Williams. The most successful on a national basis was Patti Gray, who swept the 1982 NCAA DII 3000 and 5000 titles before a 10k crown in 1983. Williams also guided Teri Serrano (1982 long jump) and Suzy Jones (1996 indoor mile) to NCAA DII titles.
By the end of Williams’ illustrious coaching career in 2003, her women’s cross country teams advanced to the NCAA DII national championships every year from 1981 to 2002, when UCD moved to NCAA DI. Her teams were top-10 a total of 21 of a possible 22 times, with 10 of those finishes among the top-5.
Additional success followed Williams when she was named UCD’s head coach for men’s cross country in 1991, as the Aggies advanced to the NCAA DII Championships in 10 of the 12 years the program was under her direction, including three top-5 finishes.
Williams’ cross country squads amassed conference titles in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) by the bunches – 20 of a possible 22 on the women’s side while the men had a run of nine straight.
“I never expected to coach this long,” Williams said in 2004. “I did so because UC Davis student-athletes are so great to work with. They like to work hard, they’re committed to achievement but they keep it all in perspective.”
While Williams’ teams were successful on the cross country trails and the track, her student-athletes excelled in the classroom as well. Her squads regularly checked in with GPAs that were among the highest on campus for intercollegiate teams, earning them UCD’s Marya Welch and Lysle Leach Award for the highest GPA more times than any other team.
When Williams retired from coaching following the 2003 cross country season, she continued as an educator. She served as Program Director of Physical Education at UCD from 1999 and earned the school’s James H. Meyer Distinguished Achievement Award for exceptional career achievement at UC Davis in 2003. She retired from the university in 2008.
“Sue has made extraordinary contributions to UC Davis, and specifically, the athletics and physical education programs, and I am extremely thankful for her service,” UC Davis Director of Athletics Greg Warzecka stated upon Williams’ resignation announcement. “Her achievements with the cross country teams are tremendous and not only helped make UC Davis one of the top Division II programs nationally, but one of the best programs at any level on the west coast.”
Williams was known as Sue Cumnock when she began her athletic journey. Born in Dallas, she grew up in Greenwood, Arkansas, and competed in track & field, basketball and tennis at Arkansas Tech. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physical education from Arkansas State in 1986, her master’s in physical education from Central Arkansas in 1975 and completed doctoral studies in education at Penn State in 1979. She became Sue Williams after marrying Keith Williams in 1977, and the couple has two sons, Seth and Casey, who went on to higher education at Barnard and Princeton.