Chanticleer Women Will Be Crowned on Monday
Four former South Carolina state champions highlight the class
Alan Connie enters his 23rd season as the head coach of Coastal Carolina University's women's cross country team, his 14th as the head women's outdoor track and field coach and his 12th as the head coach of the women's indoor track and field team.
Connie has also been named the Big South Conference Coach of the Year 25 times -- 12 in cross country, seven in indoor track and field and six in outdoor track and field. In 2003-04 and 2005-06, Connie received the triple crown for Coach of the Year in Cross Country, Indoor Track and Field and Outdoor Track and Field. Also in 2004, he was named the Southeast Region Coach of the Year for Indoor Track and Field.
Over the years, Connie has built the women's cross country program into the most successful program in the Big South Conference. The proof is 12 Big South Conference Championships, 83 All-Conference selections, 15 individual champions who have been named the Big South's Runner of the Year, 18 NCAA All-Southeast Region selections, nine NCAA National Championships qualifiers and two NCAA All-Americans. The 15 Big South individual champions includes a stretch of eight consecutive titles from 1992 to 1999, two consecutive winners in 2002 and 2003 and three-straight winners from 2005 to 2007. He has also coached 10 Big South Rookies of the Year, including five straight from 2002 to 2006. To top it all off, Connie has coached the Big South's only set of women's cross country All-Americans in Julia Viellehner (2006) and Diana Jepchirchir (2007).
While Connie has established the cross country program as the Big South's best, he has also led the Lady Chanticleers into the national spotlight. Following a No. 24 national ranking in 1996, Connie coached Coastal to a ranking of 20th nationally in 1997. In 2002, the Lady Chants were ranked 30th in the country during the season.
In track and field, Connie has coached athletes to eight All-American honors, as well as 73 Big South Indoor Champions, 78 Big South Outdoor Champions, and a combined 384 indoor and outdoor All-Conference selections. Connie's most recent All-American in track and field was 2007 graduate Chasity Johnson, who was All-American in 2005 in the indoor triple jump. She holds the Big South Conference records in the indoor and outdoor triple and long jump and was the 2005 Big South Conference Track and Field Female Athlete of the Year. Johnson also qualified for the USA National Outdoor Championships in Carson, Calif.
The 2008 season saw the Chants capture both the indoor track and field team title, as well as the outdoor team title. The two titles marked eight Big South Indoor and outdoor championships in a five year span.
The 2007-08 academic year produced two more Big South Championships in track and field and a Big South Runner-Up finish in cross country. The cross country season was highlighted by Diana Jepchirchir earning All-America honors to become Coastal Caroina's second-straight cross country All-American. Jepchirchir also set Big South and Coastal Carolina records with a time of 20:22.50 at the NCAA Southeast Regionals held in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Chants ran away with the Big South Indoor title by a 29.5 margin over runner-up Liberty at championships, winning seven of the possible 17 individual events en route to a team total of 202.5 team points. Connie earned Big South Indoor Coach of the Year honors leading his team to its third-straight indoor team title.
Coastal Carolina faired even better in the outdoor campaign, winning the outdoor team title by a 46 point margin over Charleston Southern. The squad boasted six individual titles, and earned 230 team points for their fourth title in the past five years.
The 2005-06 year was a special one for the Coastal Carolina women's cross country and track and field programs. Connie's Chants captured the "triple crown", sweeping the Big South in all three seasons (cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field). In Coastal Carolina set a record for the most points ever totaled at the Big South Indoor Championships when they won the title with 233.5 points. Additionally, the teams also set records for largest margin of victory in Big South history in both indoor and outdoor competition.
In Connie's tenure, he has witnessed multiple athletes reach the pinnacles of their careers. Among them was Amber Campbell, a member of the USA Olympic Team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she tied for the all-time American record in the weight throw. At Coastal Carolina, Campbell was a five-time All-America selection, and member of the USA National team at the World Championships in Helsinki, Finland. Campbell also graduated as the all-time American collegiate record holder in the indoor weight throw. Another standout was Jolene (Williams) Byrne, a two-time All-American, who finished second at the NCAA Division I Indoor National Championships for 3,000 meters, earned the Bronze Medal at the 2005 World University Games in Turkey, in the 5,000 meters. She also finished 14th at the 2005 World Cross Country Championships in France. Four members of the Coastal Carolina Track and Field team have been named to the USA, Great Britain, Ireland and New Zealand World University teams during their tenures at Coastal Carolina.
In addition to the successes on the track and cross country courses, Connie's student-athletes have proven that the student definitely comes first. The cross country team has earned twelve consecutive Academic All-American Team with Distinction honors from the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). The track team has ranked as a top 15 All-Academic team since the award was inaugurated seven years ago. In 2007, Coastal was sixth out of 327 Division I track and field programs with a 3.421 cumulative team GPA and earned a 3.319 cumulative GPA in 2008 to rank 21st in the nation.
Additionally, four of Connie's athletes have earned Academic All-American honors, as selected by CoSIDA. Felicitas Mensing earned the Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year Triple Crown in the 2007-08 seasons, and was only the third athlete in Big South history to accomplish the feat. Her efforts in the classroom earned her Second-Team ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America honors. Additionally, seven of the last 11 Big South Female Scholar Athletes of the Year have been members of Coastal Carolina's track and field squad.
Before coming to Coastal Carolina, Connie led the North Myrtle Beach (S.C.) High School boys' cross country team to two state titles. He also guided the girls' track and field program to two state titles and three state runner-up finishes. During his tenure at North Myrtle Beach High, Connie compiled a 169-2-1 record in dual and tri-meets. He was voted the South Carolina Track and Field/Cross Country Coach of the Year four times. Connie has two daughters- Sara (28) and Kira (24).