|Alma Mater:||Pittsburg State|
The all-time winningest track and field coach in the history of the Big 12 and the former Big Eight Conference, Nebraska Head Coach Gary Pepin completed his 39th season as the head coach of the Nebraska men’s and women’s track and field teams in 2019, making him the longest tenured active coach in Cornhusker athletics and among Big Ten track and field programs.
Pepin is a USTFCCCA Hall of Fame member and has led the Husker programs to a combined three national team titles, 73 conference team titles, 59 individual national champions and 576 individual conference champions. Additionally, 522 first-team All-America honors have been achieved under Pepin, and 59 CoSIDA Academic All-America honors have been earned under Pepin’s guidance, which dates back to 1981 for the women’s program and 1984 for the men’s team.
Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten Conference in 2011-12, Pepin’s teams have won six Big Ten championships, including a men’s sweep of the indoor and outdoor titles in 2016. Individually, Huskers have captured 63 Big Ten event titles, including nine in 2019. The Husker men claimed the Track & Field News Dual Meet National Championship in 2017 and were crowned the indoor champions in 2019.
Pepin has been honored as the USTFCCCA Midwest Region Coach of the Year 11 times in his career, including the men’s indoor honor in 2019 after the Husker men claimed the Big Ten indoor title for the third time in five years. He is a 28-time conference coach of the year, including six awards in the Big Ten era. He was the Big Ten Men’s Indoor Coach of the Year in 2019. Pepin was also honored as the 1995 USTCA National Indoor Track Coach of the Year, and earned NCAA District 5 Women’s Coach of the Year in 1995 and 1996.
Overall, Pepin’s teams have dominated the indoor conference championships through the years, winning 24 of the last 40 women’s titles, while the Husker men have won 20 of the last 35 meets, including back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016. Nebraska has also fared well at the outdoor conference championships, winning 18 of the last 40 outdoor conference meets on the women’s side and 10 of the last 25 men’s titles, including in 2016 when the men finished off the indoor-outdoor Big Ten sweep.
Only the fourth coach to guide the NU men’s program since World War I, Pepin has maintained the program’s stability after replacing the late Frank Sevigne in 1984. Pepin’s men’s program has matched the women’s success, capturing 20 indoor and 13 outdoor conference titles during his 39-year tenure.
The Pepin-coached Husker women won the 1982, 1983 and 1984 indoor national championships. Pepin’s teams have combined for 23 top-five NCAA finishes over the last 39 years, and 59 Huskers have been crowned national champions, including Nick Percy in the discus in 2016.
Pepin guided Nebraska to an incredible 44 Big Eight indoor/outdoor titles, more than any other coach in the history of the conference. After joining the Big 12 Conference in 1997, Nebraska won a league-high 22 indoor/outdoor titles. Pepin has coached women who have earned 321 All-America awards and 18 indoor and 24 outdoor individual national championships. His male athletes have garnered 201 All-America certificates since 1984, as well as nine indoor and eight outdoor individual national titles.
Among the elite athletes Pepin has coached at Nebraska are eight-time Olympic medalist, world champion and world-record holder Merlene Ottey; four-time NCAA champion Rhonda Blanford; Angela Thacker, who missed a bronze medal in the long jump by one-quarter inch at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles; 1989 NCAA outdoor triple jump champion Renita Robinson; 1991 NCAA outdoor 400-meter dash champion and Olympic bronze medalist Ximena Restrepo; three-time NCAA triple jump champion Ineta Radevica; two-time NCAA long jump champion Arturs Abolins; indoor high jump national champion, school indoor and outdoor record holder and 2008 Olympian, Dusty Jonas; 2009 indoor national champion and Big 12 indoor and outdoor long jump champion Nicholas Gordon, who also represented Jamaica at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin, Germany; nine-time conference champion Mara Griva and Big Ten champion and 2016 Olympic high jumper Marusa Cernjul.
Known as one of the premier jumps coaches in the nation, Pepin coached former Husker Angee Henry, a 10-time All-American, to indoor and outdoor NCAA long jump titles in 1996. Under Pepin’s tutelage, former Husker Nicola Martial won the 1994 and 1995 NCAA outdoor triple jump titles and added the 1996 NCAA indoor triple jump crown. At the 1996 Olympic Games, Martial represented Guyana in the triple jump. Pepin’s top male performer prior to Abolins and Jonas was four-time All-American Petar Malesev, the 1995 NCAA indoor high jump champion.
Notable Recent Seasons
2019: The Husker men were crowned Big Ten indoor champions for the third time in five years after the 4x400-meter relay squad lifted the Huskers to a two-point win over Indiana. Mayson Conner won the Big Ten high jump title as a freshman and was a first-team All-American at the NCAA Championships. Elijah Lucy won the Big Ten long jump, and Jared Seay led all Huskers at the national meet with a fourth-place finish, the best NCAA finish by a Husker heptathlete since Bjorn Barrefors in 2012.
2018: Kaiwan Culmer capped his career by sweeping the Big Ten indoor and outdoor triple jump titles for his third career gold medal, becoming the first Husker male to sweep indoor and outdoor conference triple jump titles since 2006. He went on to earn second-team All-America honors both indoors and outdoors.
2017: Kaiwan Culmer earned first-team All-America honors in the triple jump at the NCAA Indoor Championships, while Cody Walton earned first-team honors in the decathlon at the NCAA Outdoor championships as the pair led the Nebraska men to their first-ever Track & Field News dual-meet national championship. Walton won the Big Ten indoor heptathlon title, while Steven Cahoy (pole vault), Nick Percy (discus) and Brittni Wolczyk (javelin) each won Big Ten outdoor titles.
2016: The Nebraska men completed its first indoor-outdoor conference title sweep since 2004 by winning both Big Ten Championships, successfully defending their indoor title in the process. Pepin was the Big Ten Men's Indoor and Outdoor Coach of the Year, as well as the Midwest Region Men's Outdoor Coach of the Year. The Huskers captured nine Big Ten event titles and seven All-America honors. Of the nine Big Ten champions, seven went to the Pepin-led jumpers, including Tierra Williams, who swept the Big Ten indoor and outdoor long jump and triple jump to become the first Big Ten female athlete to win all four horizontal jump titles since former Husker Mara Griva under Pepin in 2013. On the men's side, Nick Percy won the discus national title to become the 59th national champion in the Pepin era. The Husker men tied for 10th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, their best finish since 2003.
2015: The Husker men ran away with the Big Ten Indoor title with 127 points, 41 more than runner-up Illinois. The Pepin-led jumpers combined for 42 of the 127 points, as Pepin picked up his first Big Ten Men's Indoor Coach of the Year award. He also added Midwest Region Men's Indoor Coach of the Year, as the Huskers tied for 13th at the NCAA Indoor Championships, their best indoor finish since 2009. Both the Husker men and women were runners-up at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Nebraska produced five first-team All-Americans and five Big Ten champions.
2013: The Husker men made history as Pepin guided NU to a dominating win at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. The Huskers recorded 10 conference titles, eight first-team All-America honors and 10 second-team All-America accolades. Pepin was honored by his peers following the outdoor conference championships as he was named the Big Ten Men’s Outdoor Coach of the Year for guiding NU to its first men’s title in the Big Ten. Pepin coached Mara Griva to a sweep of the horizontal jumps at both the indoor and outdoor conference championships, while Patrick Raedler won the indoor long jump and Janis Leitis captured the indoor triple jump title. Pepin led the men to a 15th-place finish in the team standings, and was honored by his peers nationally as the Midwest Region Men’s Outdoor Coach of the Year.
2012: Pepin guided the Husker women to the Big Ten Indoor Conference team title. The Huskers recorded 11 conference titles and 11 first-team All-America honors. Pepin was honored as the Big Ten Indoor Women’s Coach of the Year for guiding NU to its first conference team title as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Pepin personally coached four athletes to Big Ten titles in the jumps, including Anna Weigandt with an outdoor triple jump title, Marusa Cernjul with an outdoor high jump title, Mara Griva in the indoor triple jump and Chris Phipps with an indoor long jump crown.
2011: Pepin coached three athletes to All-America honors and four individual Big 12 titles in the jumps. Overall, the Huskers notched 10 All-America accolades and 10 individual Big 12 titles, while Pepin’s women’s squad earned the indoor conference title, upsetting four-time defending champion Texas A&M. Pepin was honored as the Big 12 Indoor Women’s Coach of the Year and the Midwest Regional Indoor Coach of the Year for the second straight season.
2010: Pepin continued to show that he is one of the top coaches in the country, as he personally coached seven athletes to nine All-America honors and four individual Big 12 titles in the jumps. The Huskers totaled 15 All-America awards and seven individual Big 12 titles, while Pepin’s men repeated as team champions at the conference outdoor meet. For the team’s success, Pepin was named Midwest Regional Indoor Women’s Coach of the Year, Midwest Regional Outdoor Men’s Coach of the Year and was honored as Big 12 Men’s Outdoor Coach of the Year for the second straight season. The men's team title earned the Huskers their 22nd Big 12 title - the most for any program in the conference - and it marked the first time in conference history that a men’s program had repeated at the outdoor meet.
2009: Pepin passed Frank Sevigne as the longest-tenured head coach in the history of the Nebraska program. The historic milestones continued as the men’s team captured the Big 12 outdoor team title, marking the program’s 100th conference title. The Husker men also showed they were a force at the national level, placing in the top 20 at both the indoor and outdoor championships. Nicholas Gordon led the way for the men’s team at the NCAA Indoor Championships with a national title in the long jump, as the team tied for fifth, marking the Huskers’ highest finish since 2005. At the end of the season Pepin was named Big 12 Men’s Outdoor Coach of the Year and the USTFCCCA Midwest Region Men’s Outdoor Coach of the Year.
2008: Of the seven NCAA All-America honors brought home by Huskers in 2008, three athletes were personally trained by Pepin in the jumps, including Dusty Jonas, an eight-time All-American, national champion in the high jump at the 2008 NCAA Indoor Championships and a member of Team USA at the 2008 Beijing Games. Overall, Pepin sent seven jumpers to the NCAA Championships.
2006: Arturs Abolins, under the tutelage of Pepin, became the first NCAA long jump champion from Nebraska, a feat Abolins accomplished at both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships. Abolins also became the first Pepin-coached men’s jumper to sweep an event at both NCAA meets in a single season.
2005: Pepin’s program experienced a banner year in 2005 that rivaled the success of any other in the nation. The Nebraska women swept the Big 12 Indoor and Outdoor Championships for the second time, after also achieving the feat in 2000. The women added a pair of top-10 NCAA finishes. The Husker men, who claimed their eighth Big 12 indoor title in nine years, also raced to a pair of top-20 team placings at the NCAA Championships. Individually, Nebraska athletes brought home four NCAA event titles for the third straight year, including titles by Anne Shadle in the mile and 1,500 meters. Equally impressive were the 18 All-America honors collected by NU athletes, including five runner-up finishes. Pepin’s jumpers combined for five of those awards, including a silver-medal performance by Jonas, then a freshman, in the high jump at the NCAA indoor meet. Jonas later claimed the U.S. Junior and Pan American Games titles following the outdoor season. Nebraska’s 2005 season capped a remarkable three-year run that saw the program earn five top-five NCAA team finishes and 13 individual national titles.
2000: At the turn of the century, both Husker teams swept the indoor and outdoor titles, which gave Nebraska its fourth sweep through the conference championships. Although the Huskers fell short of being the first team in league history to sweep the men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor titles in back-to-back seasons (2000 and 2001), NU came closer to accomplishing the feat than any other school by claiming two of the four titles in 2001.
Before coaching at Nebraska, Pepin served as the women’s head coach at Kansas in 1976. Pepin also spent nine seasons at Kansas as an assistant to Bob Timmons. During his stint with the Jayhawks, Pepin’s jumpers established Big Eight bests in every event and earned numerous Big Eight medals, All-America honors and Olympian status. With Pepin’s guidance, Kansas became the first school in the country to have three men jump over 7-2 in the high jump in the same season. Before joining the Jayhawk program, he coached in the prep ranks in Missouri, and watched his teams capture several conference titles.
A native of Pittsburg, Kansas, Pepin graduated from Pittsburg High School and Pittsburg State University. He received his master’s degree from Kansas in 1974. He is married to the former Jean Ann Frank of Pittsburg, and they have three daughters, Heidi, Lisa and Michelle, and five grandchildren, Carter, Blue, Landon, Millie and Scout.