Small making huge difference in track and field program
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When Jeff Small took the Marshall University track and field head coaching position over two decades ago, he had no idea he would still be here today.
After being with the program for a few seasons, however, he knew he had found a home. And from that point forward, Small, now in his 21st season as head coach, has made a big difference in the lives of numerous Marshall student-athletes.
“I did not know I would be here 20 years later,” Small said. “But probably 10 years into it, I knew I wanted to be here that long. The people around here are just really great, and I have enjoyed my time here. The interesting part is being in three different conferences during this span and each one having different challenges, wondering if we are going to be in another conference in the future. It has been great here though.”
Before coming to Marshall, Small was an assistant men’s and women’s track and field coach and head cross country coach at the University of South Carolina.
In 2014, the indoor track at the Chris Cline Athletic Complex was named the Jeff Small Track in honor of the coach’s commitment to the program. Small also serves as the head coach of the men’s and women’s cross-country team at Marshall.
Since the track opened, Marshall hosted meets for the first time in nearly 15 years.
“Getting the track named after me was great,” Small said. “But honestly, it was a little embarrassing. It was an honor. And the best thing about that track is not the name on it, but just what it does for our team and our recruiting. It’s just special with the winters we have had the past two years that we have not missed a single practice, versus where we used to train outdoors or the hallways of the Henderson Center. The place is awesome.”
Small said he thinks hosting meets at the facility has gone well thus far.
“I don’t think we have had a single school that has come here and has not said ‘We want to come back next year.’ We put on a really good meet, and we have great hospitality for the teams. The facility location is just surrounded by restaurants. I always worry on the road of when and where the kids are going to eat and if the buses are going to have to take them but here there are 15 different restaurants right here. From a coaching standpoint, this is one the best places to bring a team, here, indoors.”
Small said he has been pleased with his team’s performance this season and its preparation for the Conference USA Indoor Championships, which begin Wednesday.
“Indoor has been going pretty well,” Small said. “I have been pleased with how the kids have come along, and I’m looking forward to the conference championship.”
Small said he is looking forward to how freshman Elisabeth Paulina, who took first in the 400-meter dash at 55.34 in the Marshall Chipotle Invitational Feb. 13, which was a school and meet record, performs in her first collegiate conference tournament.
“She really hasn’t been pushed,” Small said. “I don’t think she has lost a race as far as the 400 goes.”
Small has experienced a lot during his time with Marshall – from winning the Southern Conference Championship in 1997 while coaching future NFL All-Pro receiver Randy Moss, the men’s track and field program being cut and even having the university name its track after him. One thing is for certain though, Small has made a big impact on Marshall.
Jacob Flatley can be contacted at [email protected]