Photos from the women's Rust Buster Invitational.
Juli Benson, the 2010 Mountain West Coach of the Year, is entering her fourth season as the head coach for the Air Force cross country team. In addition to her duties coaching the cross country program, Benson is an assistant coach for the Falcons' track and field team, working exclusively with the middle distance and distance runners.
Last season, Benson coached the men to a runner-up finish in the team standings at the MW Championships and four all-conference honors. Jeremy Drenckhahn placed second at the conference meet, while Jim Walmsley, who also nabbed all-region distinction from the USTFCCCA, placed fifth to earn all-MW first-team accolades, while Isaiah Bragg and Andrew Quallio finished within the top 15 for second-team distinction. On the women's side, all-MW selection Melissa Fuerst became just the second member of the women's team to place within the top 10 at a conference meet, as she paced Air Force to a fourth-place team finish.
Benson was honored as the coach of the year by the Mountain West Conference after guiding the men's team to a third-place finish at the 2010 conference championships and two all-conference selections, including runner-up placement by senior Justin Tyner. The men finished fifth at the NCAA Regional Championships, while Tyner and Drenckhahn advanced to the national championship meet. On the women's side, Katherine Ward claimed the first all-region and all-conference honors for the women's program since 2005.
In 2009, Benson coached Tyner to the Falcons' first appearance at the NCAA Cross Country Championships since 2007. Highlighted by a pair of all-conference runners in Tyner and then-senior Zach Nordahl, the men placed third at the conference championships. With four of the five scoring runners finished within the top 30, the women's squad finished fourth for its best placement at the conference meet since the 2004 season.
The success of the Falcons' distance program has carried into the track season.
The men's distance and middle distance runners helped the Falcons capture their first-ever Mountain West titles at both the indoor and outdoor championship meets. Junior Alex Lindsay won the 800-meter title at the MW Outdoor Championships, while classmates Matt Caldwell and Lance Wolfsmith helped Air Force to a conference title in the distance medley relay. Sophomore Zach Perkins also claimed all-conference honors in the 1500-meter run, while Quallio qualified to the NCAA West Preliminary in the 10,000-meter run.
On the women's side, senior Morgan Mosby became Air Force's first individual conference champion in a running event, as she won the 1500-meter title at the MW Outdoor Championships That came less than three months after she and Fuerst, who earned all-MW honors with a third-place finish in the 1500, helped the Falcons' distance medley relay team to their first conference championship title with an Academy-record performance at the MW Indoor Championships. Mosby also set the Academy record in the 1500-meter run and qualified with Fuerst to the NCAA West Preliminary Meet, while classmate Jen Bremser set a new program standard in the 3000-meter steeplechase.
Benson came to the Academy following a three-year stint at George Mason University, where she served as the men's middle distance coach and recruiting coordinator. While with the Patriots, Benson was instrumental in improving the placement of the men's cross country team at the Colonial Athletic Association Championships from ninth to second in just two seasons.
Prior to her time at GMU, she spent five years as an assistant coach for the men's and women's track and field team at Georgetown University. During her tenure with the Hoyas, over 20 athletes earned All-America status. In addition, the distance program was consistently ranked among the nation's top-10.
One of her Georgetown runners, Chris Lukezic, won the USA Junior National Championship in the 1500-meter run and finished fourth in that event at the 2004 Olympic Trials. She also guided Treniere Clement to a runner-up performance in the 1500-meter run at the 2004 NCAA Championships.
Benson began her coaching career as the head coach of the women's cross country team at her alma mater, James Madison University, in 1993. During her four-year tenure, she helped lead the Dukes to their first-ever CAA Championship. In addition, she served as an assistant coach for the track and field team.
She received a bachelor's degree in political science from James Madison in 1992. She also obtained a master's degree in sports administration and exercise science from JMU in 1996. A four-year letterwinner with the Dukes, she was an NCAA All-American in the 1500-meter run during the 1992 season. In 2002, Benson was inducted into the JMU Athletic Hall of Fame.
Benson, who spent seven years as a competitor for Asics Tiger Corporation (1993-94) and Reebok International (1994-00), served as an assistant women's coach for the 2007 U.S. World Championship Team that competed in Osaka, Japan, and as the junior women's coach for the 2003 U.S. Cross Country Team that captured its highest finish ever at the World Cross Country Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Benson is currently the personal coach to Jennifer Barringer Simpson, who claimed the gold medal in the 1500-meter run at the 2011 World Outdoor Track and Field Championships and competed in that event at the 2012 Olympic Games. She also coached Tyner, Houseworth and Matt Williams, as members of the Air Force World Class Athlete Program (WCAP).
She has also served as a coach to Kevin Sullivan, who set new Canadian records in the indoor and outdoor 3000-meter events and finished 13th at the 2006 World Cross Country Championships, and Lukezic, who finished seventh at the 2006 World Indoor Championships and clocked the seventh-fastest 1500-meter time ever in a U.S. outdoor performance. In addition, Benson served as a consultant to Alan Webb, who was ranked No. 1 in the 1500 meters during that time.
An accomplished runner in her own right, Benson represented the United States in the 1500-meter run during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. She is a two-time silver medalist in the 1500 at the World Student Games and a gold medalist in that event at the 1996 Atlanta Gran Prix. She also earned a bronze medal in the mile of the 1997 Gran Prix Final. Benson was elected to the U.S. Women's Track and Field Coaches Association Advisory Board and as a representative for USATF Women's High Performance (middle distance running).
She was married in July 2009 to Robert Benson, the associate head football coach and defensive coordinator at The Colorado School of Mines. The couple resides in Highlands Ranch, Colo.