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Contract extended for UA track coach Mitchell

Beacon Journal staff report

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The University of Akron said Friday that track coach Dennis Mitchell has received a two-year contract extension.

Here is the news release from the athletic department:

• • • • •

University of Akron head coach Dennis Mitchell, the 17-time Mid-American Conference Track and Field Coach of the Year, has agreed to a two-year contract extension through August 2018, UA Director of Athletics Tom Wistrcill announced Friday.

“Dennis continues to prove he is the best coach in the MAC and one of the best in the country,” Wistrcill said. “His teams consistently compete for championships and he recruits student-athletes who want to be champions in the classroom and in competition. It is remarkable what his program has been able to accomplish during his time at Akron and we look forward to many more years of success under his leadership.”

As one of the longest-tenured coaches in the MAC, Mitchell is set to begin his 19th season at UA next month. Mitchell, who directs both the men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor teams, is responsible for elevating the Zips’ program to its current elite standing, having won 17 MAC Championships in track and field and overseeing two cross country conference titles since 1999. In all, Mitchell has earned the league’s Coach of the Year honor 10 times for his women’s teams and seven times for his men’s teams.

“I appreciate the confidence the University has shown in our program and me,” Mitchell said. “I have enjoyed my 18 years here and look forward to many more as we push towards our goal of making Akron the ‘Summit of Track and Field/Cross Country.’”

In 2013, Mitchell led the men’s team to its third consecutive MAC Outdoor team title and sent 12 men and women to the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships, including a program-high six qualifiers to the national indoor meet in Fayetteville, Ark.

Individually speaking, Shawn Barber earned First Team All-America honors twice as a true freshman, highlighted by a third-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the men’s pole vault. In all, Barber was one of eight UA athletes earning 12 All-American honors in 2013, joining fellow First Team honorees Alexis Cooks (discus) and Brittany Funk (hammer). In addition to capturing its fifth MAC championship since 2011, the Akron men’s team finished the outdoor season ranked fourth in the Great Lakes Region – behind No. 1 Wisconsin, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Indiana from the Big Ten Conference – and 53rd among 277 programs in the country.

Since 1998, Mitchell’s teams have produced 26 All-Americans, who have garnered a total of 61 All-America honors. Of that esteemed group, two have gone on to win NCAA Championships. Christi Smith captured the heptathlon crown in 2000 and Steve Large won the hammer in 2009. Additionally, a total of 112 Academic All-MAC honors have been bestowed upon UA student-athletes during Mitchell’s tenure.

While the Zips men’s teams have dominated the MAC in recent years, Mitchell initially made his mark at UA on the strength of his women’s teams. The Zips women enjoyed an incredible run of MAC Championships from 2005 to 2009, winning the league’s title nine times, including five consecutive indoor crowns from 2005-09 and four straight outdoor championships from 2006-09. Furthermore, the Zips women became the first program in MAC history to win the Triple Crown – sweeping conference championships for cross country, indoor track and outdoor track – during the academic year of 2005-06.

Mitchell, 54, is a native of Rialto, Calif., and a 1985 graduate of Abilene Christian University.

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