Watson, Morgan Named Men's, Women's Head Cross Country Coaches
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.-Virginia director of track and field/cross country Bryan Fetzer announced Thursday (Jan. 12) that Pete Watson has been named the Cavaliers’ head men’s cross country coach and Todd Morgan has been hired as the head women’s cross country coach. In addition, both will serve as assistant track and field coaches.
Combined, Morgan and Watson have helped guide two national champion individuals, three NCAA Championship squads, 11 team podium finishes (NCAA top-four) and 34 All-Americans.
Watson had served as the head cross country and assistant head track and field coach at North Carolina since 2009, while Morgan spent the last three cross country seasons as the primary cross country coach and four-and-a-half years as an assistant track and field coach at Florida.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” Fetzer said. “Both of them understand the direction we want to go and both of them have experience at the highest level and know what it takes to be successful.”
Watson, who brought in the No. 1 men’s cross country recruiting class in 2010 according to FloTrack.com, guided Kendra Schaaf to the 2011 ACC women’s individual title and her second consecutive All-America honor. He mentored the Tar Heels to back-to-back third-place finishes at the ACC Men’s Cross Country Championships. Furthermore, both the men and women were honored as 2010 United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic Teams.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” Watson said. “I think Virginia is a really special place and I think the potential to win here is second-to-none. I know there’s a lot of talent here and I think Coach Fetzer has put together an incredible staff. I’m really excited to get in here and start to get this program going.”
In addition to his cross country exploits, Watson coached Ashley Verplank to All-America second team honors in the 1,500-meter run during the 2011 indoor season and Schaaf to second-team All-America accolades in the 2011 outdoor 5,000-meter run. In three years, he guided 14 Tar Heels to the NCAA East Preliminary Round and four to the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Watson’s athletes were also successful at the international level with Jake Hurysz winning gold in the 5,000m and Isaac Presson claiming silver in the 1,500m for Team USA at the 2011 Pan American Junior Championships.
Before his time in Chapel Hill, N.C., Watson was the head cross country and assistant track and field coach at Auburn from 2005-08. He led the Tigers to a school-best fifth-place finish at the 2008 NCAA Men’s Cross Country Championships and helped guide Auburn to the 2006 NCAA Women’s Outdoor Track and Field crown.
Watson led five Tigers to All-America honors in cross country, including four in 2008. Angela Homan placed 30th in 2005 as Watson’s first All-American.
At the NCAA Championships under Watson’s tutelage, Homan placed fifth in the outdoor 10,000m and ninth in the indoor 5,000m in 2006 and Holly Knight placed eighth in outdoor 5,000m in 2008.
In addition, Girma Mecheso won the 2008 SEC Cross Country title, while Felix Kibioywo captured the 2007 and 2008 NCAA South Region crowns, the 2008 SEC 1,500m title and qualified for the finals of the 5,000m at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Watson graduated from West Virginia in 2001 and was a volunteer coach there. The London, Ontario native was a member of the 2000 and 2001 Canadian National Track and Field Team, winning bronze in the 5,000m at the 2001 Canadian Track and Field Championships.
“Pete epitomizes coaching,” Fetzer said. “He’s an incredible recruiter and an incredible coach. He knows how to make adjustments and to make changes to each athlete and that’s not always easy. He’s a proven winner and I’m excited to see him lead our men to the highest level.”
Morgan directed the Florida women’s cross country team to back-to-back SEC Championships in 2009 and 2010 and mentored Charlotte Browning to the indoor one-mile run and outdoor 1,500-meter NCAA individual titles in 2010.
During the 2011 cross country season, Morgan led the Gator men to a runner-up position at the SEC Championships, their highest SEC finish since 2007, and the women to their eighth straight top-five SEC finish, placing third. The men went on to finish second at the NCAA South Regional Championships, automatically qualifying them for the NCAA Championships.
At the 2011 NCAA Championships, Dumisane Hlaselo finished fourth in the men’s indoor one-mile and fifth in the 1,500m, while Genevieve LaCaze placed fifth in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase to earn first-team All-American honors. Cory McGee (women’s 1,500m) and Sean Obinwa (men’s 800m) claimed second team honors. The men claimed their second straight NCAA Indoor title and finished the outdoor meet third overall, just two points behind NCAA Champion Texas A&M.
Morgan was named the 2010 South Region Indoor Women’s Assistant Coach of the Year for his work with Browning, who in addition to her two NCAA titles, won three SEC championships, including the indoor one-mile, indoor 3,000m and outdoor 1,500m.
“I’m thrilled to be here with the commitment and dedication they’ve made to track and cross country here,” Morgan said. “I’m looking forward to working with Coach Fetzer, grateful for the opportunity and ready to get going.”
He guided the Gator women’s cross country team to one of their best years in program history in 2009, when it won its fourth SEC Championship and placed seventh at the NCAA Championships, its best national cross country finish ever. Rebecca Lowe won the SEC and NCAA South Region titles and earned SEC Female Athlete of the Year and South Region Female Athlete of the Year honors, while Morgan was named the SEC Women’s Coach of the Year as well as the South Region Women’s Coach of the Year.
Before his time in Gainesville, Fla., Morgan was an assistant track and field coach at South Florida, where he coached four NCAA All-Region cross country performers and one, Christa Benton, qualified for the NCAA Championships.
Prior to USF, Morgan coached at Virginia Commonwealth from 2001-04. After serving as interim head coach in 2001-02, he mentored the sprints and jumps athletes, that included Tanika Brown, who won the 2003 NCAA East Regional, ECAC and CAA high jump championship and was named the CAA’s Freshman of the Year.
Morgan began his coaching career at his alma mater, North Carolina, in 2000, working with primarily the cross country teams, sprinters and jumpers.
Morgan earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and communication from North Carolina in 1999. He served as the Tar Heels’ cross country captain in 1997 and 1998 and competed professionally for Nike Athletics America for one year.
“Having the opportunity to know Todd while he was at Florida and coaching against him in the SEC, he has done an incredible job,” Fetzer said. “If you can win in the SEC, it proves you can win anywhere and I’m anxious to see what he and our women can achieve.”
Virginia’s new track and field facility will be completed in time to host of the 2012 ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships April 19-21.