Runaway success: NAU cross country coach brings home Big Sky Coach of the Year award

Coach Mike Smith

Michael Smith has another trophy for his case.

The Northern Arizona University’s director of cross country and track & field was named the Big Sky Conference Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year for the 2018 season. The Lumberjack men have placed first at every single event in which they competed this season.

This is Smith’s 10th Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year award and the 25th time an NAU coach has won the men’s cross country version of the award. He credited the rest of the team’s staff, including assistant coaches Becca DeLoache and Jarred Cornfield, for the team’s continuing success.

“The success of NAU cross country and the entire program would not be possible without the tireless work of coaches and the support staff,” Smith said. “The Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year award is shared with all those who work behind the scenes to train, mentor and care for the bodies and minds of our student-athletes.”

Since Smith took the role of head of the NAU program in the spring of 2017, he has garnered an impressive list of accomplishments within the conference and on the national level. In 2017 Smith earned the award for men’s and women’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and both men’s and women’s cross country.

Also in 2017, he was named the National Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year. Smith has also been named the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s (USTFCCCA) Mountain Region Coach of the Year twice on the women’s side during indoors in 2017 and 2018. He collected the same USTFCCCA Mountain Region award for the 2017 women’s outdoor team.

The 2018 campaign ended with Smith taking all four Big Sky Coach of the Year awards for indoor and outdoor track & field for the men’s and women’s squads.

Senior All-American long-distance runners Peter Lomong and Matt Baxter said Smith’s leadership has helped the team rise to the level that it has. The Lumberjacks are among the favorites to win their third straight NCAA Division I men’s national title at Nationals in Wisconsin on Nov. 17.

“Coach Smith has made a huge impact in my life,” Lomong said. “He has made me a better athlete and student. One thing that inspires me the most about his work effort is the way he wakes up between 2-3 a.m. every morning to read our running logs. He is deserving of Coach of the Year for things like that.”

“Smith has brought this program to another level,” Baxter added. “Both our men’s and women’s programs are doing special things under his guidance. He deserves every award and piece of recognition that comes his way.”

At the 2018 Big Sky Cross Country Championships, NAU runners took the top four spots at the men’s event, with Baxter taking first place. The women’s team had a strong showing, taking second place as a team at the event.

The men’s and women’s cross country teams are preparing for the NCAA Division I Mountain Regionals in Provo, Utah, on Nov. 9. The NAU men’s team will be running against top-tier programs like BYU, University of Colorado, Air Force and Colorado State. On the women’s end they will see defending champions New Mexico, Colorado, BYU and Big Sky rival Southern Utah.

“Success starts from the top,” DeLoache said. “Coach Smith creates a culture amongst the team of hard work, accountability, respect and love. His leadership prepares each athlete to find, reach and continually surpass their limit. This is done not only through the training he provides but the environment he fosters allowing each athlete to thrive. He no doubt deserves this award and I am honored to work beside him every day.”


NAU Communications