Nov. 3, 2011
SALEM, Ore. – Willamette University will be honoring Oregon State head cross country coach Kelly Sullivan on Saturday Nov. 5 when he is inducted into the Willamette University Athletics Hall of Fame class of 2011.
Sullivan is already a member of the Willamette University Athletics Hall of Fame as an athlete when he was inducted eight years ago with the men’s cross country team of 1978.
Sullivan has been a staple in cross country and track in the state of Oregon since his running days at Willamette University. He was an NAIA All-American in the steeplechase and an NAIA All-American in cross country in 1979. After graduating from Willamette with a degree in history and education, he started his coaching career at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, Ore.
Sullivan was the head coach for the cross country program and was the assistant track and field coach. He coached 24 NJCAA All-Americans from 1980-1984. He led the men’s cross country teams to four straight Oregon Community College titles and four NJCAA West Regional titles. Because of his success at Clackamas CC, he was inducted into the Junior College Hall of Fame in 1986.
Sullivan moved on from Clackamas CC to Auburn from 1984-1996 when he was the head men’s and women’s cross country coach and the assistant track and field coach. In 1997, Sullivan got offered an opportunity to coach at his alma mater, and he took it.
He rejuvinated the men’s and women’s programs at Willamette leading the women’s cross country team to the NWC title in 2003 and the men’s cross country team to a sixth place finish nationally in 2003. He was named the Northwest Conference women’s cross country Coach of the Year in 2003 and led the women’s team to an eighth place finish nationally, which was the highest finish in school history.
“When I first got to Willamette, there were 30 student-athletes on the men’s and women’s track team and when I left we had 120,” Sullivan said. “We won four straight cross country championships and two straight track championships and those were the first in quite a while.”
At Willamette, Sullivan mentored 23 Division III All-Americans, including individuals who won five national championships. In more than two decades of coaching, Sullivan has earned 24 conference of regional Coach of the Year honors in cross country and track.
“At Willamette, we’ve been blessed to have a long line of legendary track coaches and each have been instrumental in ‘raising the bar’ for our student-athletes,” Willamette University Athletic Director David Rigsby said. “In the years since Kelly started at Willamette, I’m confident that he is more proud of the team accomplishments and the ‘family’ of runners that continue to care deeply about one another years after they left.”
He accepted the head coaching position at Oregon State University in 2004, when the university decided to reinstate the cross country and track programs. They needed a coach that was familiar with cross country in the state of Oregon and Sullivan was their man.
Since accepting the position, Sullivan has worked to bring back the track and field program to its full potential. Sullivan created history this past summer when construction on the new track facility officially broke ground on Phase I of the process.
“The biggest difference between Oregon State and the situation I had at Willamette with building a program was that I walked into a situation where we had a facility,” Sullivan said. “So when I got to Willamette, the pieces of the puzzle were already in place. The exciting thing is that we are on the verge of doing things now to have what Willamette has.”
During the 2011 track season, Sullivan coached the team to new records and accomplishments for Oregon State. He coached Laura Carlyle to a record setting season where she broke school records and was the first track athlete since the program was reinstated to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
Sullivan has been an integral part of the track program progressing at Oregon State with its first male student-athletes competing in an Oregon State uniform since 1988. Oregon State football student-athlete Jordan Bishop became the first student-athlete, male or female, to earn All-American status when he finished 10th in the high jump at the NCAA Championships in June 2010.
Sullivan has coached cross country and track in the state of Oregon for the majority of his coaching career. He has left a mark on the running community at Willamette University, Clackamas CC and Oregon State.
“Beginning with his time at Willamette, Kelly has been one of the most important advocates and leaders of the Oregon track community,” Rigsby said. “He has turned good runners into champions, transformed individual accomplishments into team success, and been an amazing cheerleader and supporter of his own teams and opponents, alike. We are incredibly proud of what he has done for Willamette and look forward to his continued successes at Oregon State.”