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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 will enter his 35th season as the head coach of the Nebraska men’s and women’s track and field teams in 2015, making him the longest tenured active coach in Cornhusker athletics and Big Ten track and field head coach.
Since 2000, Pepin’s squads have combined to win two Big Ten team titles, 19 Big 12 team titles, 20 individual Big Ten titles, 143 individual Big 12 titles, 20 individual NCAA titles and have finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships 12 times.
Overall, Pepin’s teams have dominated the indoor conference championships through the years, winning 21 of the last 31 women’s titles, while the Husker men have won 17 of the last 27 meets. Nebraska has also fared well at the outdoor conference championships, winning 17 of the last 31 outdoor conference meets on the women’s side, and taking nine of the last 18 men’s titles.
Pepin’s remarkable success has not gone unnoticed, as he was inducted into the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame in 2008. Pepin also was named the 2005 USTCA Indoor Midwest Region Coach of the Year for the men and women, as well as the men’s outdoor coach of the year the same season. At the conference level, Pepin either won or shared Big 12 Conference Coach-of-the-Year honors a remarkable 21 times. He also was honored as the 1995 National Indoor Track Coach of the Year by the USTCA, and earned NCAA District 5 Women’s Coach of the Year in 1995 and 1996.
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 16 indoor and 12 outdoor conference titles during his 33-year tenure. The 2010 outdoor men’s title marked the third time in his career that he has won back-to-back men’s outdoor titles, including 1989-90, 1995-96 and 2009-10.
Pepin’s 57th career individual NCAA national champion came in 2014, as senior Miles Ukaoma capped his career with a personal-best time of 49.23 in the 400-meter hurdles to win the NCAA Outdoor title. Both the men’s and women’s teams finished in the top 20 at the outdoor meet, with the men finishing 12th for their 10th top-20 outdoor finish in the last 13 years. The men’s team also finished in the top 20 (t-17th) at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Of the Huskers’ nine All-America honors in 2014, four were personally coached by Pepin. Patrick Raedler capped his career with indoor and outdoor All-America honors, finishing fifth and eighth, respectively, in the long jump. On the women’s side, Ellie Ewere (fifth, outdoor triple jump) and Jazmin McCoy (sixth, outdoor long jump) achieved All-America status to give Pepin 316 career women’s All-Americans.
The Husker men made history in 2013 as Pepin guided NU in a dominating win at the 2013 Big Ten Outdoor Championships. The Huskers recorded 10 conference titles, eight first-team All-America honors and 10 second-team All-America accolades in 2013. 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. Raedler went on to finish fifth in the long jump at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships, while Leitis finished ninth in the triple jump and Griva came in 10th and 11th in the long jump and triple jump, respectively. Pepin coached Griva to a fourth-place finish in the long jump and sixth-place finish in the triple jump at the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships, while Leitis finished eighth in the long jump Pepin led the men to a 15th-place finish in the team standings, and was honored by his peers nationally with the Midwest Region Men’s Outdoor Coach of the Year.
Pepin guided the Husker women to the 2012 Big Ten Indoor Conference team title, marking just the second Big Ten Championship for Nebraska Athletics. The Huskers recorded 11 conference titles in 2012 and 11 first-team All-America honors. Pepin was honored as the 2012 Big Ten Indoor Women’s Coach of the Year for guiding NU to it’s 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, Griva in the indoor triple jump and Chris Phipps with an indoor long jump crown.
In 2011, Pepin coached three athletes to three All-America honors and four individual Big 12 titles in the jumps. Overall, the Huskers notched 10 All-America accolades in 2011 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 2011 Big 12 Indoor Women’s Coach of the Year and the Midwest Regional Indoor Head Coach of the year for the second straight year.
Pepin continued to show that he is one of the top coaches in the country in 2010, 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 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 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. After the collegiate season, two of Pepin’s jumpers, Paul Hamilton and Chris Phipps, competed for Team USA at the NACAC U-23 Championships in Miramar, Fla. Hamilton won the high jump and Phipps placed second in the triple jump.
In 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 2009 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 2009 Big 12 Men’s Outdoor Coach of the Year and the 2009 USTFCCCA Midwest Regional Men’s Outdoor Coach of the Year.
Of the seven NCAA All-America honors brought home by Huskers in 2008, three athletes were personally trained by Pepin in the jumps area, 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, including two true freshmen.
In 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.
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 championships for the third straight year in 2005, including titles by Anne Shadle in the mile and 1,500-meter run events. 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. The 2004 season alone brought a pair of third-place team finishes at both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships, the highest finishes by the NU women since 1992. Both squads finished fifth at the 2003 outdoor national meet.
In 2000, 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, NU came closer to accomplishing the feat than any other school, claiming two of four titles in 2001.
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’s Huskers own a reputation of excellence at the national level as well. His women’s teams won three straight national indoor titles (1982-83-84), and have placed in the top 10 at 17 of the last 31 NCAA Indoor Championships. At the 1996 NCAA indoor meet, the men’s team finished in second place with 31.5 points, its best finish under Pepin and the best in school history.
Outdoors at the NCAA Championships, the Husker women have finished in the top 10 in 16 of the last 30 meets, highlighted by third-place finishes in 1983, 1991, 1992 and 2004. The top-three finish in 2004 produced two national champions and 58 points for NU’s highest score since 1984. The Nebraska men have also made noise at the outdoor national meet, earning 14 top-20 finishes during Pepin’s tenure.
The Husker women were ranked in the top five of the National Collegiate Division I Track Coaches’ Association Outdoor Dual-Meet rankings every year but one since 1983 (the ranking was discontinued in 2006). The 1989, 1991 and 1992 squads were rated as the nation’s top dual-meet teams, and the 1994, 2000, 2004 and 2005 teams won indoor dual-meet titles. Since 1988, the men have been ranked in the top 10 in the dual-meet rankings, and in 1996 defended their top ranking in the National Collegiate Division I Track Coaches’ Association Indoor Dual-Meet Rankings. The third-place ranking in 2004 matched the previous best by the 1989 Nebraska men in the outdoor standings.
Pepin has coached women who have earned 316 All-America awards and 18 indoor and 24 outdoor individual national championships. His male athletes have won 180 All-America certificates since 1984, nine indoor (including an NCAA relay title) and six outdoor national championships. 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 most recently Miles Ukaoma, who won his first national title in 2014 in the 400-meter hurdles.
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.
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, Kan., 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.