It is the second straight year that the pair has swept the Mountain Region men's coaching awards.
It is the second such honor for Steffan and the first for Benson.
Steffan was honored during the annual Pole Vault Summit in Reno.
Paige Blackburn was selected as the region's top female field athlete.
Scott Steffan, the 2013 National Pole Vault Coach of the Year and a three-time USTFCCCA Mountain Region Assistant Coach of the Year, is in his 10th season with the Air Force track and field team, serving as the event coach for the vertical jumps. He was promoted to associate head coach prior to the start of the 2014 season, after spending the first six years as an assistant coach.
Since his arrival in 2008, five members of the men’s pole vault team – Dylan Bell, Nick Frawley, Kyle Pater, Cale Simmons, Joey Uhle – have combined for 15 All-America awards. Frawley, who claimed a pair of top-three finishes at the NCAA Outdoor Championships (second in 2008, third in 2010), is the program’s most decorated Division I All-American, with four overall selections.
Steffan has coached the Falcons to 12 Mountain West pole vault titles, including seven of the last nine indoor titles and the last five outdoor titles. Uhle accounted for five conference titles (2013 indoor, 2014 co-indoor, 2014 outdoor, 2015 indoor, 2015 outdoor) during his career, while Simmons (2012 indoor, 2012 outdoor, 2013 outdoor), Bell (2014 co-indoor, 2016 indoor, 2016 outdoor) and Frawley (2008 indoor, 2010 indoor) each claimed multiple titles. In addition to his three MW titles, Simmons also set the conference’s all-time (18’4¾” in 2013) and championship-meet (18’1¾” in 2012) records during outdoor competition.
The men have amassed 33 all-conference (top-three) finishes over the last nine years, including four sweeps of the medalist positions (2013 outdoor, 2014 outdoor, 2015 indoor, 2015 outdoor). Highlighted by a five-meet span of at least five scoring finishers, the men have accounted for 59 top-eight finishes during Steffan’s tenure.
Steffan has coached five of the seven Air Force vaulters that have broken the 18-foot mark, as the men have continually rewritten the Academy record book under his watch. The Falcons have posted seven of the top-10 indoor marks and six of the top-10 outdoor marks in program history. In 2013, Air Force was the only team in the nation to have three vaulters clear 18 feet during the outdoor season, as the Simmons twins (Cale-18’4¾”, Rob-18’0½”) and Uhle (18’1”) were all ranked in the nation’s top-12.
The women have accounted for four of the five all-conference pole vault selections in Academy history, as Melissa Beerse (2008 indoor), Rachel Simmons (2009 indoor) and Kimber Shealy (2009 outdoor, 2012 indoor) have all placed within the top three at a conference meet. A total of five Falcons have qualified to the first-round of the NCAA Outdoor Championships during his tenure, while Beerse participated at the NCAA Indoor Championships during the 2008 season.
Steffan’s female vaulters have completely rewritten the Academy’s all-time standings, as the entire indoor top 10 list has come under his watch, as well as 10 of the top-11 outdoor marks. He has coached two 13-foot vaulters, including Beerse (indoor record holder at 13’6½”) and Shealy (outdoor record holder at 13’1¾”), as well as 11 of the 12 Falcons that have cleared the 12-foot bar in either season. In addition, Shealy’s outdoor clearance of 13’1¾” broke the 10-year-old facility record at the Cadet Outdoor Track and Field Complex.
Under Steffan’s watch, Frawley (2009 indoor) and Simmons (2012 indoor) have been named the Mountain Region Field Event Athletes of the Year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, while Shealy picked up a pair of USTFCCCA All-Academic honors (2009, 2010) and was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District list twice (2010, 2012).
Steffan took over coaching the high jump in 2014, guiding Rachel Herald and Taylor Smith to Mountain West titles at that year’s outdoor championship meet. He saw Herald break long-standing Academy records in the women’s event, as she cleared 5’10½” to break the program’s 18-year-old indoor mark and 5’9¼” to shatter the previous outdoor mark that had stood since 1986. The men also accounted for a pair of top-10 indoor improvements during his first season, as Kobi Rex cleared the third-best height in Academy history (7’0½”) and Smith debuted in fifth with a clearance of 6’10¾”.
His jumpers have accounted for four more conference titles during the past two seasons, with Smith (2015 outdoor, 2016 indoor) and John Reynolds (2016 outdoor) capturing men’s titles and Shelley Spires earning the women’s outdoor crown in 2016. Smith, who earned runner-up honors at the 2016 NCAA Indoor Championships, etched his name at the top of the program’s indoor standings after clearing 7’2½” to break the previous record that had stood for 19 years. The women’s records also received a rewrite, as Spires matched Herald’s indoor mark of 5’10½” and registered that clearance during the outdoor season to set a new Academy standard.
The success of Steffan and his athletes has not been limited to the collegiate arena, as he coached Simmons to a runner-up finish at the U.S. Olympic Trials and a spot on Team USA at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Steffan, who has continued to work with Simmons after graduation through the Air Force World Class Athlete Program, saw three of his Air Force vaulters advance to the finals of the 2016 Trials, as Simmons, Bell and Uhle all earned top-10 finishes during the preliminary round.
Steffan joined the Falcons' program after spending seven years at the University of New Mexico, where he coached the pole vault and men's multi-event athletes.
He rebuilt New Mexico's pole vault program during his time in Albuquerque. Under his watch, three pole vaulters competed at the NCAA Championships, while at least three qualified for the regional championships during each of his last four years and eight Lobos earned all-conference honors. Steffan coached Robert Caldwell to All-America status and led Derek Mackel to the NCAA Midwest Regional record of 18'1".
In addition to his work with the pole vault team, Steffan also improved the Lobos' decathlon and heptathlon teams. He guided New Mexico to two decathlon titles, as well as the first Mountain West Conference heptathlon crown. Overall, he coached six all-conference honorees in the multi-events, as well as two NCAA participants.
Prior to joining the UNM staff, Steffan spent three years at Wichita State University. While there, he coached All-Americans in the pole vault, triple jump and heptathlon. His women's pole vault team finished first, second and third at the Missouri Valley Conference championships during each of his three years.
Steffan began his collegiate coaching career at the University of Virginia in 1991. During his six years at Virginia, he coached All-American athletes in the high jump, heptathlon, decathlon, 400-meter hurdles and long jump. He also guided 22 Atlantic Coast Conference champions.
An all-Western Athletic Conference decathlete for New Mexico, Steffan graduated from the school in 1991 with a bachelor's degree in education. A native of Aztec, N.M., Steffan has two sons – Jake and Trey.