By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – After directing one of the fastest and arguably the most impressive turnarounds in the history of Tennessee Tech Athletics, head cross country and women's track & field coach Wayne Angel has received a contract extension that will keep him at the helm of the Golden Eagle programs through the 2020-21 athletic seasons.
The contract extension was announced by Director of Athletics Mark Wilson, who went on to say, "When we made the decision to take the next step in building our women's track & field and both cross country programs, we conducted a national search to find a dedicated and experienced coach that would help us compete at the highest level of the Ohio Valley Conference and beyond while maintaining our standards for academic success.
"We found the right man for the job in Wayne and I am excited and delighted that we have completed an agreement to keep him in Cookeville and at our University so he can continue to grow our programs."
Coach Angel expressed, "Tennessee Tech is a great place to be, I love this community and the administration. It would have been a very, very difficult place to walk away from. I'm committed to Tennessee Tech and the athletic department is committed to track & field and cross country. It is a special feeling to know that you are wanted and that the administration believes in you. There are so many positives about Tennessee Tech and the growth is not just in athletics, but in the University as a whole."
The extension was announced just months after the Golden Eagle women's track & field team completed a season sweep of the OVC Championships, the first of their kind in Tech history. The indoor squad dominated on its way to the program's first-ever OVC title, scoring more than 30 points more than runner-up Eastern Kentucky and claiming eight event titles.
Less than three months later, it was the outdoor track & field team's turn in making school history, capturing the program's first-ever championship. The Golden Eagles dominated the OVC Outdoor Championships, producing 151 points for an eye-popping 50-point lead over runner-up Murray State.
"When I came to Tech four years ago, Mark Wilson shared his vision of what these programs could be," Angel said. "He expressed his desire to win in the classroom as well as OVC championships. He shared with me about following the process and everything else would take care of itself. We've accomplished the mission with quality student-athletes and great coaches. No one could be prouder than I am at this moment."
But to truly understand the depth of what went into the turnaround, one must first realize where the program had been. Just four years prior, Angel's first after becoming the first full-time head coach in program history, the Golden Eagles failed to record a point at the OVC Championships. Now, four years later, the team will enter its winter and spring seasons looking to defend its conference crowns.
"Who would have thought it possible, after scoring zero points at the OVC Championships four years ago, that we could take this track program from the cellar of the OVC to the penthouse?" Angel expressed. "Not only are we OVC champions, but we have one of the top track & field programs in the South Region of the United States."
"While we never doubted what the end result would be, I can gladly say we were both surprised and thrilled with how quickly our student-athletes and our coaching staffs produced the results we knew they were capable of," Wilson said. "This is an exciting time for Tennessee Tech track & field and I know Coach Angel and the student-athletes are eager to make a habit of becoming champions both in the classroom and outside of it."
And while the track & field teams have already made an impact in school history, the progress the men's and women's cross country teams have made can't be overlooked.
On the women's side, sophomore Purity Sanga took the league by storm as a rookie last season, claiming the OVC Freshman of the Year honors while finishing sixth individually at the OVC Championships. She then turned in an eighth-place finish at the NCAA South Regional to become the first women's cross country student-athlete from Tennessee Tech to earn a bid to and compete at the NCAA Championships. She eventually earned USTFCCCA All-Academic honors following the season.
On the men's side, a sophomore who had already re-written the Golden Eagle record books as a freshman was dominant for much of the season. The owner of the school's top times in the 6K, 8K and 10K, Gilbert Boit was unstoppable early, capturing first-place finishes in the team's first three events.
He earned OVC Men's Athlete of the Year and placed sixth at the OVC Championships. He followed it up with a 13th-place showing at the NCAA South Regional, narrowly missing out on a bid to the NCAA Championships while earning All-Region honors.
Since Angel's arrival, the top 12 times for the men's 8K have been recorded while six of the top 10 women's 5K times have been turned in.
"We still have a ways to go," Angel said. "We want to win some OVC Cross Country titles as well as do our part in helping Tech to win the OVC Commissioner's Cup. I am so proud of these young ladies and men. This is the beginning of a great tradition and they are very proud of what they have accomplished. We are still hungry and highly motivated. We like the taste of success."
In the classroom, Angel has seen both continued success and growth with each of his four programs. In his eight semesters at Tech, his teams have posted a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better 31 of a possible 32 total semesters combined. This past spring, the men's cross country team recorded its highest-ever GPA with a mark of 3.410. In the spring of 2016, the women's cross country team acheived its highest GPA in program history, a 3.541. In total, over the past four years, Angel's student-athletes have earned 154 Athletic Director's Honor Roll honors, 53 OVC Commissioner's Honor Roll honors and four OVC Medal of Honor accolades.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS UNDER COACH ANGEL
|3-time OVC Coach of the Year|
|2 NCAA Qualifiers|
|7 First-Round NCAA Qualifiers|
|2 OVC Team Championships|
|1 OVC Runner-Up Finish|
|3 OVC Athlete of the Championship Honors|
|3 OVC Athlete of the Year Honors|
|4 OVC Freshman of the Year Honors|
|46 OVC Champions (Medalists)|
|36 School Records|
|6 OVC Records|
Photo by Thomas Corhern