Mark Colligan has coached 44 athletes who have qualified for the NCAA Championships and five of his athletes have achieved the greatest feat at the collegiate level, winning a combined 12 national championships.
Colligan's thrower produced a solid year in 2010, as four of his throwers qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships, with two earning All-America honors. Adam Wolkins (javelin) and Tyler Hitchler (discus) each earned their first All-America award, while Jade Hodson (hammer throw) and Morgan Wilken (discus) competed at the national meet for the first time in their careers.
In 2009, Colligan’s throwers once again performed at a high level, highlighted by senior Keith Lloyd. A Nebraska native, Lloyd won the Big 12 indoor shot put title, marking the fourth time in the league’s 14-year history that a Husker has won the crown, the most for any school in the conference. At the conference level, the men’s throws were instrumental in the team’s outdoor conference crown as they scored 35 of the Huskers’ 148 points, topping the total team scores of Colorado (34) and Kansas (12.5). On the women’s side, the Huskers brought home five All-Big 12 honors, led by sophomore Samantha Musil who earned All-Big 12 in both the discus and hammer throw.
The 2008 season was also strong for Colligan, as he coached three athletes to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Freshman Austin Braman and senior Kayla Wilkinson competed in the javelin, while Lloyd pulled double duty in the hammer throw and shot put.
Wilkinson finished one of the top javelin careers in Husker history in 2008, as she earned her third Big 12 title and her second All-America honor in the event. Wilkinson broke the conference meet record and her own school record on her way to winning her third title in Boulder, Colo., with a toss of 182-10. She was the first female in Husker history to win three conference titles in javelin, and only the second athlete overall to achieve the feat. Herbert Grote won four Big Six championships in 1940-41 and 1946-47.
In 2007, Colligan coached 2006 defending national discus champion Dace Ruskule to a repeat of the Big 12 crown in the event, as well as an All-America finish at the outdoor championships. He also guided two other throwers, Jeni Steiner and Issar Yazhbin, to the national meet.
The 2006 season proved to be one of the most successful in the history of Colligan’s throws program. Three elite women’s athletes combined for four bids to the NCAA Championships, including Ruskule, who won only the second national discus crown in school history. Each of the three Huskers finished no lower than second at the NCAA outdoor meet, including Becky Breisch and Wilkinson, who finished as the runners-up in the shot put and javelin, respectively.
A two-time NCAA champion, Breisch concluded one of the finest collegiate careers in Nebraska history in 2006. In addition to tying the program record for throwing events by earning her 10th All-America honor during national competition, the Edwardsburg, Mich., native became the first woman in Big 12 history to collect three conference titles in the discus. Breisch also equaled the NU standard with nine career conference titles in all throwing events.
Colligan’s throwers experienced tremendous success in 2004, as former Husker Carl Myerscough claimed his fourth NCAA championship in the shot put by winning the outdoor crown. He also earned the silver at the 2004 indoor NCAA meet. Breisch claimed her first-ever outdoor national title in the discus as a junior to go along with her 2003 outdoor gold in the shot put. Breisch also earned silver and bronze finishes in the indoor and outdoor shot.
Both Myerscough and Breisch broke school records in the discus (213-7 and 207-1, respectively) in 2004. Throwers accounted for seven individual indoor and outdoor Big 12 Conference championships, including four by Myerscough, three by Breisch and one in the hammer throw by Issar Yazhbin.
Colligan’s athletes had outstanding back-to-back-to-back national championship seasons in 2002, 2003 and 2004. In 2003, Colligan saw Myerscough capture both indoor and outdoor national titles in the shot put and coached Breisch to a national championship in the outdoor shot put and a bronze finish in the discus in her second season as a Husker.
Colligan coached Tressa Thompson to three NCAA championships in the shot put during the 1997 and 1998 seasons. Thompson won the 1997 indoor championship with a mark of 59-0, and the outdoor title with a throw of 60-8 1/2. In the 1998 outdoor season, Thompson concluded her title run with 61-2 1/4 to win the national championship. Thompson finished her career as a three-time national champion, 10-time All-American, six-time conference champion and two-time World Championships team member. Colligan also had the privilege of coaching the 1992 and 1993 NCAA indoor shot put champion, Kevin Coleman.
Four athletes coached by Colligan have competed in the World University Games. They include Coleman, Thompson, Andy Meyer and Melissa Price. Price finished runner-up at the 2002 NCAA outdoor meet in the hammer throw. Doreen Heldt, who competed for the Huskers from 1995 to 1999, was the first-ever Pan-Am Games junior hammer champion.
After serving as assistant throws coach for three seasons, Colligan was elevated to the head throws coach position in 1990. He has worked with student-athletes who have won a combined 72 conference individual titles, and his athletes have earned 68 All-America awards. Colligan-coached athletes have set one American record, two collegiate records, four NCAA championships meet records, 14 conference records and 23 conference meet records.
After attending NU track meets as a youth, Colligan joined the Huskers in 1982. He lettered twice and received the squad’s most-improved athlete award in 1983 and 1986. As a senior in 1986, Colligan was voted team captain and won the Big Eight outdoor shot put crown with a mark of 63-2 3/4. He also qualified for the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships as a senior.
A 1986 graduate of Nebraska, Colligan earned his degree in business administration. He is married to 1988 Big Eight discus champion Jean Monter. They have a daughter, Jessica, and two sons, Max and Sam.