Head coach Ron Mann led the Cardinals to eight BIG EAST team titles and nearly 50 All-America honors.
On July 2, 2004, the University of Louisville cross country and track and field programs received a major upgrade - one that would immediately change the face of the sports at Louisville for the long haul. That day, U of L Director of Athletics Tom Jurich announced the hiring of head track and field coach Ron Mann.
Following a highly successful 24-year career in the same role at Northern Arizona, Mann was handed the reins of the Louisville programs and has quickly molded the Cardinals with his three-prong vision of a consistent BIG EAST Conference championship contender, a regional power and a national-level program.
Under Mann's guidance in the past seven years, the men's and women's track and field teams have had their best seasons in school history with three Top-10 national finishes, six NCAA event titles, seven BIG EAST team titles and seven BIG EAST runner-up finishes.
Last season, Louisville again witnessed the crowning of a national champion, its sixth since 2007, as Matt Hughes won his second-straight 3,000m steeplechase national title in a stadium-record time. The Cardinals' national success didn't stop there, though, as Louisville student-athletes earned a combined 12 All-America distinctions at the indoor and outdoor championships.
At the league championships, where Mann continually leads the Cardinals to success, the women's track and field team won its first indoor title in program history and proceeded to capture its fourth-straight outdoor crown, led by D'Ana McCarty's three event titles. The women became just the second team in BIG EAST Conference history to win four-straight outdoor titles and the first to capture indoor and outdoor league titles in the same year since Pittsburgh managed to achieve the feat in 2005. Following the indoor win, Mann and his staff earned the league's indoor coaching staff of the year award.
In the previous three years, Mann and company directed the women's squad to three-straight BIG EAST outdoor titles. Along with the 2011 championships, the Cardinals have secured 49 BIG EAST Championships event titles over that stretch (2008-11), and Mann's staff was bestowed the coaching staff of the year award four different times.
In 2010, the Louisville men's and women's teams had no shortage of success under Mann. When all was said and done, the program had a pair of national champions, nine All-America honors, 15 BIG EAST individual champions and one team title courtesy of the women's outdoor squad. On the national stage, Hughes became the program's fifth national champion, first in an outdoor event, winning the 3,000m steeplechase. On the women's side, McCarty defended her indoor national title in the weight throw, breaking the record she previously set earlier in the year for her 18th-straight victory in the event.
The year prior, the women, on top of their BIG EAST outdoor title, matched a school-record eighth-place finish at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships and made up six of the 12 athletes - a record at the time - to advance to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. At the regional event, Jere' Summers and Cory Thorne won individual titles in their respective events. Three different male student-athletes, who helped guide the men's team to a runner-up finish at the BIG EAST Outdoor Championships, achieved All-America honors at the event. Before the year was complete, five women and three men were recognized by the USTFCCCA as All-Academic Team members as well as both squads earning the organization's team award.
In March of 2009, McCarty became the first female athlete in Louisville history to capture a national title, winning the weight throw competition at the NCAA Championships and earning All-America honors in the process.
The Cardinals' wealth of success during the 2007 and 2008 seasons was just as plentiful, especially for cross country. The men's cross country team hogged the spotlight during the 2007 season with its successful performances at major meets. The group won its first BIG EAST cross country title behind four all-BIG EAST honorees, witnessed four all-Southeast Region honorees and then proceeded to register a school record ninth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Leading the way were Wesley Korir and Thorne, who became the program's first All-Americans in cross country; Thorne, who won the BIG EAST cross country title in 2009, earned All-America honors that year. On the women's side, Tarah McKay earned back-to-back individual bids to compete at the NCAA Cross Country Championships and finished her career with three trips to the national stage (2006, 2008-09).
On the track, those two years featured unheralded success to the point the program had yet to witness.
In 2007, the men's track and field team captured its first conference title in school history at the league's outdoor championships. The squad placed second at the indoor championships that year, but more importantly, the "Black-Belt" duo of Tone Belt and Andre Black captured the first national titles in school history by winning the indoor long jump and triple jump titles, respectively. Arthur Turland became the first indoor All-American in school history at the event with an eighth-place finish in the weight throw. At the outdoor meet, Belt, Black and Korir - the first distance All-American - earned All-America honors, solidifying a seventh-place team finish after the men placed 10th at the indoor championships. Black repeated as an All-American in 2008 in the triple jump, and Michael Eaton also earned the distinction in the 10,000m.
On the women's side, the group placed second at the 2007 BIG EAST Outdoor Championships, with four athletes earning event titles, including Emily Turland, who was named a third team Academic All-American that year. In 2008, the women's squad won its first women's conference title at the BIG EAST Outdoor Championships, led by Summers' two event titles.
In 2006, the men's cross country team earned its first NCAA Championships bid and a 15th-place finish at the meet. The long list of accomplishments for the track and field program in 2006 reached its highest point at the national championships in Sacramento, as Belt earned All-America honors in the long jump and high jump. On the women's side, Kelley Bowman registered a third-place finish in the women's high jump to become the first field All-American in program history.
At the time, the finishes at the 2006 NCAA Championships were the best in school history and the three All-America performers in 2006 matched the previous total for the U of L program, demonstrating the immediate impact of Mann and his coaching staff in such a short period of time. Of course, that season was just the beginning of the Cardinals' success.
Overall, Mann has led 31 squads (19 men, 12 women) to team bids to the NCAA Cross Country Championships, including a pair of national runner-up finishes by the NAU men in 1988 and 1995.
The men's cross country squad wasn't the only ones showing great improvement, as McKay earned the women's program's first individual bid to the national championships in her first collegiate season. U of L moved to the top half of the BIG EAST and became a competitive squad at the NCAA Southeast Regional.
During Mann's first two seasons with the Cardinals' men's cross country team, the program took several steps in reaching his goal of being among the nation's elite programs. The squad had six first-place finishes, with a total of five all-conference distinctions. In 2005, they earned a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Southeast Regional, laying the foundation for the program's breakthrough season in 2006.
While at NAU, Mann's athletes earned All-America honors at the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, where distance runners Travis Laird, Jinny Hanifan and Ida Nilsson -- who won the NCAA title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and set the collegiate record in that event in the NCAA West Regional Championship -- earned national honors for NAU. The Lumberjacks had 15 athletes qualify in 22 events (men and women) for the NCAA regionals, with seven advancing to the NCAA national meet.
A coaching legend at Northern Arizona since his arrival in 1980, Mann guided the Lumberjacks to a combined 58 Big Sky Conference championships in cross country and track and field and 16 Top 10 NCAA finishes, while producing 107 All-Americans, five Olympians and four individual national champions. He earned 57 league coach of the year awards and won 12 NCAA regional championships in cross country.
In conference competition in 2004, the NAU men's and women's outdoor teams combined for 43 Big Sky all-conference performances, including 14 individual titles. The women's team claimed the league championship and men's team finished as runner-up that year. In the fall of 2003, the NAU men's cross country team finished third in the nation, while the women placed 15th as six athletes earned All-America honors. Both teams won Big Sky Conference titles.
Mann, who graduated from NAU in 1972, was a member of the cross country and track and field teams and was a member of the Lumberjacks' 1971 Big Sky champion cross country team. He then began his coaching career as an assistant at Mesa (Ariz.) Community College and Phoenix (Ariz.) Sunnyslope High, his prep alma mater. He returned to NAU in 1980 to lead the women's program and assumed the head coaching reins of the men's and women's programs in 1982. He is a three-time member of the NAU Athletics Hall of Fame as an individual in 1999 and previous as athlete and coach of two championship cross country teams.
Besides the success on the track and trail, Mann's programs at NAU were outstanding in the classroom as well. In the 1990s, 60 NAU cross country student-athletes were named Academic all-Big Sky. During the 2002 spring semester, the combined track team posted a 3.04 GPA, which was one of the best in the nation according to the United States Track Association. Individually, the team featured 34 student-athletes with a 3.25 GPA or higher.
Mann has extensive international experience as well to go along with his success at the collegiate level. He served as head coach of the U.S. Junior National Team at the 1993 Pan American Games and helped coach the medal-winning West team at the 1991 Olympic Festival. In 2008, Mann was honored to serve as the men's middle distance coach for Team USA.
The U of L head coach continued his work with U.S. Track and Field as an assistant coach for the men's team at the 2005 World Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Helsinki Finland. He served as one of five assistants and was specifically involved with the jumping events for the U.S. team.
His success on and off the track has led to many other impressive accolades over the years for Mann, including induction into the Northern Arizona University Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999, induction into the Mt. SAC (Mt. San Antonio College) Relays Hall of Fame in 2001, and induction into the Arizona Track & Field Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009. The Mt. SAC Hall of Fame was created in 1985 to honor athletes, coaches and friends who have made significant contributions both to the Relays and the sport of track and field. Mann was one of two people to be inducted in 2001, with the other being women's track and field legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
Married to the former Charlene Russell, who hails from Corydon, Ind., Mann has three grown sons: Steve, Ryun and Brandon.