Oregon State University women’s track and field/cross country coach Kelly Sullivan announced his retirement Wednesday.
Sullivan has been the program’s head coach since OSU reinstated track and field/cross country in 2004 after a 16-year hiatus. In his tenure, he has helped lead a $9 million fundraising effort to develop the program, including the ongoing facility enhancements of the Whyte Track and Field Center.
The Beavers continually set new individual and team marks since the program’s rebirth under Sullivan. The school records in 16 of the 21 events contested at the Pacific-12 Conference Championships were set during his tenure, as were 113 current career top-10 times or marks in those events. Former distance runner Laura Carlyle earned All-American honors in 2011 and ’12, two-sport male athlete Jordan Bishop was an All-American high jumper in 2010 and heptathlete Kara Hallock aims to join the duo when she represents OSU at next month’s NCAA Championships.
Under Sullivan’s guidance, the Beavers’ cross country and track and field student-athletes routinely ranked among the Pac-12 Conference and national leaders for academic success, including graduation rates.
“We want to thank Coach Sullivan for his many years of loyal service to our cross country and track and field programs,” OSU Vice President/Director of Athletics Scott Barnes said. “He helped us re-build the women's program from the ground up and we are very appreciative of his work. We wish Kelly the very best in retirement and his future endeavors, and know that he will always be a part of Beaver Nation.”
Sullivan was officially introduced as the Beavers’ head coach Jan. 14, 2004, and has since worked tirelessly to return the program to a national status. He came to OSU from Willamette University, where he served as the head men’s and women’s coach from 1997-2003. During Sullivan’s tenure, 23 student-athletes earned All-American honors, the team finished in the top-10 nationally in multiple seasons and he was named the Northwest Conference Coach of the Year numerous times.
“I want to thank President Ray and all the administrators who have been involved in their support in transforming a distance-only program with no track facility into a program that fields a team that is competitive in all events, with a world-class facility in the Whyte Track and Field Center,” Sullivan said.
“It has been a pleasure to coach hundreds of student-athletes who have represented Oregon State University in an outstanding manner on the track, in the classroom and in the community. I’ve also had the great fortune to work with outstanding assistant coaches, committed alumni, generous donors and support staff.”
Before embarking on his successful coaching stint at Willamette, Sullivan was the head men's and women's cross country coach and assistant track and field coach at Auburn from 1984-96. He led the Tigers to two NCAA Cross Country Championships. From 1980-84 he was the head cross country coach and assistant track and field coach at Clackamas Community College, leading the harriers to four straight league and regional titles. In addition, the Cougars’ men’s cross country team were national runners up in 1983 and placed fourth in 1981 and ’84.
“One of my goals when I came to Oregon State was to make this job a lot more attractive than it initially was,” Sullivan said. “I’ve accomplished that goal and I am very excited to see what lies ahead for Beaver cross country and track and field under Barnes and his staff.”
Sullivan was a successful distance runner and steeplechase participant during his college career, which included at Clackamas Community College and Willamette. He was a 1979 NAIA All-American in cross country and the steeplechase at Willamette.
Sullivan, who is a member of the Clackamas Community College, National Junior College and Neah-kah-nie High School (Rockaway Beach, Ore.) Halls of Fame, has also been involved in international track and field, serving as an assistant coach for Team USA in 2001. Overall, Sullivan has earned 24 conference or regional Coach of the Year honors in cross country and track and field, including the 2002 and 2003 NCAA West Region Track Coach of the Year for men and women.
Oregon State will immediately launch a national search to appoint a new head coach for the cross country and track and field programs.