USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - Ryan Cole was named the head coach of the Air Force cross country program, the Academy's athletic department announced today. In addition to his head coaching duties with the cross country team, Cole will also serve as the distance coach during the track and field season.
Cole comes to the Academy after spending the past seven seasons at Arizona State University. He joined the Sun Devils' staff as a graduate assistant in 2007. He also spent three years as an assistant to Louie Quintana, before assuming control of the women's distance program in 2011.
"When you hire a coach at the Air Force Academy, you always hope to get someone with not just an eye-catching resume, but an individual who will be a `good fit' with respect to the Academy mission," head coach Ralph Lindeman said. "With Ryan, I believe we've got a coach who will be an ideal mentor and role model for the cadet-athletes, while building on the terrific tradition of success our cross country teams have achieved over the years under Mark Stanforth and Juli Benson."
This past season, Cole coached Shelby Houlihan to a NCAA national title in 1500-meter run and an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Her eighth-place cross country finish, the highest placement by a Sun Devil runner at that meet since 2001, marked the second of back-to-back All-America honors for Houlihan in cross country.
As an assistant with the men's and women's distance program under Quintana, Cole was on the sidelines as the women finished fourth at the 2007 NCAA Cross Country Championships. He also saw the women finish ahead of Stanford at the Pac-10 Championships for the first time in school history. Individually, Brandon Bethke took second at the Pac-10 Championships and seventh at the NCAA Championships for the best men's finish in ASU history, while Darius Terry became the Sun Devils' first NCAA All-American in the 1500-meter run after placing 10th.
On the track, Cole helped the ASU men's squad to the 2008 NCAA Indoor Championships, behind an individual title in the 3000-meter run from Kyle Alcorn and a runner-up finish in the distance medley relay. He also saw Alcorn capture the 3000-meter steeplechase title at the outdoor championships, while the Sun Devils finished sixth in the overall team standings. He also saw two runners claim All-America in the indoor 800-meter run and outdoor 5000-meter run during his first season with the program.
In addition to coaching the Sun Devils' distance runners, Cole also handled many of the program's daily administrative duties and served as the meet director for Arizona State's home track and field events, including the Sun Angel Track Classic and Desert Twilight Cross Country Festival.
He also established the Sun Elite Track Club, a post-collegiate training group for female distance runners in Tempe. That group, which recorded eight Team USA qualifying performances, included podium finishes by Allie Kieffer at the U.S. National Indoor Championships (third in the 3000-meter run) and at the U.S. Cross Country Championships (10th).
Cole began his coaching career in 2006 as an assistant coach at Northwood University, a NCAA Division II school in Midland, Mich. In his one season with the Timberwolves, Cole helped a pair of athletes become the first distance runners in program history to qualify for a national meet. In addition, his distance team broke 13 school records during the year.
As a student-athlete, Cole began his career as a distance runner at the University of Wisconsin. The Badgers won the Big Ten cross country title every year he was with the program, while finishing no worse than fifth at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
With a year of collegiate eligibility remaining, Cole concluded his career as a cross country All-American at Grand Valley State University, a NCAA Division II school in Allendale, Mich. He also helped the Lakers to a sweep of the conference titles in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field. Individually, he set the conference championship-meet record in the indoor 5000-meter run and the GVSU school record in the 10,000-meter run.
A native of Sanford, Mich., Cole obtained a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Wisconsin in 2006.