EUGENE, Ore. -- National championship caliber assistant coaches Maurica Powell and Erik Whitsitt have been named to the Oregon track and field staff and Andy Powell has been promoted to associate head coach for both the men's and women's track and cross country programs, head coach Robert Johnson announced Tuesday. Johnson also announced that Matthew Downs has been named director of internal track and field operations.
"We are very excited to be able to announce that Erik, Maurica and Matt have joined the Oregon staff," said Johnson. "Erik and Maurica are innovative and exciting coaches and the performances by their student-athletes at the NCAA and conference levels speaks volumes about their ability to connect with and motivate young people on many different levels.
"We also are pleased to extend a well-deserved promotion to Andy Powell. He has been a tireless worker for the University of Oregon and has helped train some of the best young Americans who are out there running today."
Andy Powell has played a key role in the resurgence of the Oregon men's program, which has won six consecutive conference track and field titles, a pair of cross country national championships and an indoor track national title during his seven years in Eugene, first as a men's assistant coach and most recently as associate men's head coach.
Powell, who now assumes the mantle of associate head coach for both the men and the women, has coached some of the most successful runners in recent Oregon history, like Matthew Centrowitz, Galen Rupp and Andrew Wheating. Centrowitz ran to a bronze medal finish in the 1,500 meters at the 2011 IAAF World Championships, and a year later, placed fourth in a thrilling London Olympics 1,500 meter final.
Powell has helped Oregon capture back-to-back NCAA Men's Cross Country championships in 2007-08 plus the runner-up trophy in 2009, its first-ever NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship in 2009 followed by a second-place showing in 2010, and a second-place trophy at the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championships and a third-place finish in 2010.
"It is a great honor and privilege to continue to work with the Men of Oregon middle distance and distance runners," said Andy Powell. "I am also looking forward to working with coach Johnson and the other great members of our staff."
The new hires to the Oregon staff, Maurica Powell and Whitsitt, have mentored five NCAA individual champions, another seven NCAA runners-up and countless conference winners between the two of them.
Whitsitt comes to Oregon after a remarkable three-year stint at Illinois State that saw him coach Tim Glover to consecutive NCAA men's javelin titles in 2011-12. Whitsitt was also key in the development of Brittany Smith, a seven-time All-American who was the NCAA runner-up in both the women's hammer and women's shot in 2012.
Glover, who was named the 2012 USTFCCCA men's national field athlete of the year after winning the NCAA crown, and Smith both went on to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials, along with another ISU graduate, Leigh Petranoff (women's javelin). Glover and Smith then represented Team USA at the 2012 under 23 NACAC championships in Mexico, where Glover won the gold in the javelin and Smith was the silver medalist in the hammer.
At the 2012 Missouri Valley Championships, Whitsitt's throwers accounted for 41 of Illinois State's 90 points in claiming the league title. Following the season, Whitsitt was named the 2012 USTFCCCA Men's Midwest assistant coach of the year.
"I am thankful to coach Johnson for this wonderful opportunity and am extremely excited to be a part of the Oregon track and field staff," said Whitsitt. "To be involved with such a storied throws program while competing for Pac-12 and NCAA titles year in and out is truly amazing.
"I'm looking forward to contributing to and learning from some of the top minds in track and field as well as utilizing the world class facilities here. We have some great student-athletes in the program and I'm really looking forward to getting to know them and to settling down with my wife in such a wonderful community!"
Prior to Illinois State, Whitsitt gathered an impressive resume of national coaching and competitive experience. He was the throws coach at McNeese State from 2008-09, and also served as the team's academic liaison and recruiting coordinator. He gained experience in the coaching ranks both as a volunteer assistant coach, and with throwing camps and summer league teams.
During his collegiate years at Idaho State (2002-05) and Boise State (2005-07), Whitsitt won two individual conference championships in the shot put and was a member of four team conference championships. He was a four-time regional outdoor qualifier in the shot put and qualified for the 2007 NCAA Championships and the 2007 U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Whitsitt, a native of Pueblo, Colo., holds a USATF Level I certification and is a USATF certified official. He and his wife, Kacie, reside in Eugene.
Maurica Powell rejoins the Ducks' staff after a brief hiatus. Among the many highlights during her first tenure are a pair of NCAA Indoor women's national titles (2010-11), three conference crowns and three NCAA Outdoor runner-up finishes (2009-10-11). She has also overseen individual national titles by Jordan Hasay (mile, 3,000 meters), Anne Kesselring (800) and Rebekah Noble (800), 12 individual conference event winners and 42 all-Americans.
The 2010-11 season was a memorable one for Maurica Powell and the Ducks, as Hasay led the team to the Indoor national title with her wins at the mile and 3,000 meters. Hasay was also the Pac-10 individual cross country and 1,500 meter champion during the 2010-11 year. The 2011 outdoor season also produced another Pac-10 team title for the Ducks, including a pair of wins from Hasay in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters, and concluded with another NCAA Outdoor runner-up finish. For the third straight year, the Ducks were named the USTFCCCA's Division I women's national program of the year.
"I'm thrilled to rejoin Coach Johnson and the Women of Oregon," said Maurica Powell, who will also serve as an assistant for the women's cross country team. "We have an ambitious agenda for our program and I'm excited to continue the trend of excellence established over the past few years."
During her first tour with the Ducks she also guided Nicole Blood to the 2009 Pac-10 cross country individual title, Oregon's first conference medalist in 17 years. She was instrumental in Oregon's back-to-back NCAA Cross Country runner-up finishes in 2007-08.
A middle distance star for Stanford University from 1998-2002, Maurica Powell still ranks in a number of top 10 categories for the Cardinal, and was an All-American in 2002 in the 1,500 meters (fifth, 4:16.51) and indoor distance medley relay (1,200 meter leadoff leg, third overall, 11:09.23). In the Pac-10 Championships, she was a three-time scorer in the 800 meters and also placed in the 1,500 meters as a junior and senior. She took seventh in the 800 meters as a freshman in the 1999 U.S. Junior Championships.
Maurica Powell, from Boston, and her husband, UO associate head coach Andy Powell, have two sons and live in Eugene.
Andy and Maurica Powell and Whitsitt are joined on the Ducks' staff by returning assistant coach Jamie Cook, who is entering his third season with the program.
"I believe we have assembled one of the best track and field staffs in the country," said Johnson. "It is a talented staff with a proven record of getting the best out of their student-athletes at the conference and national level, and at the same time, helping these young men and women successfully mature into adulthood.
"I am looking forward to working with these outstanding coaches every day as we strive toward our ultimate goal of competing for conference and national championships."
Downs joins the Oregon staff following three years as the director of operations at Virginia. He will serve as the track and cross country teams' liaison to various areas in the athletic department, including compliance, eligibility, meet operations, finance, marketing and promotions and public relations.
At Virginia, Downs managed all administrative areas of the Cavaliers' track and field business operations, as well as working with many offices within Virginia's athletic department.
Prior to Virginia, Downs was an assistant track and field coach at St. Christopher's High School in Richmond, Va., from 2008-09. He also assisted in the race management of the 2008 SunTrust National Marathon in Washington, D.C.
Downs earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Mary Washington in economics and history in 2008, and a Master of education in sport leadership from Virginia Commonwealth in 2009. He was an all-conference runner from Mary Washington from 2005-07 and team captain from 2006-08.
Downs is also a USATF certified official with six years of experience.
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