After coaching the men’s cross country team to its seventh straight and 10th overall Big West Conference Championship last fall, Mark Conover has been named the new Director of Track and Field / Cross Country for Cal Poly.
Conover replaces previous director Terry Crawford, who resigned last summer after 18 years at Cal Poly to accept a position with USA Track and Field as director of coaching.
“Mark emerged as the right candidate for this position among a very talented pool of candidates,” Cal Poly Director of Athletics Alison Cone said. “Mark has demonstrated his ability to recruit and develop elite athletes and has a vision for continuing the success and tradition of the Cal Poly track and field program.”
Conover is currently in his 14th season at Cal Poly and has led the Mustangs to 11 consecutive appearances at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, six of those as a team. He has coached the men’s team to four top-20 finishes, including 13th in 2003, 10th in 2004, 13th in 2006 and 11th in 2007.
“I am honored to be selected as the director of track and field and cross country at Cal Poly,” Conover said. “To be in the position to lead the program into the next decade is a coach’s dream. Cal Poly offers everything that is necessary when it comes to having a successful program due to its prestigious academic standing and the ‘learn by doing’ experience that is offered to the student-athlete in a setting that is second to none.”
Conover has been named the Big West Conference Men’s Coach of the Year eight times and the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) West Region Coach of the Year twice (2000 and 2003).
“I am thankful to Alison Cone for providing me with this opportunity, which I view as the byproduct of hard work, passion, dedication, commitment and loyalty to the university,” Conover added.
During his tenure at Cal Poly, Conover has coached a pair of two-time All-Americans in both track and cross country. He has coached 23 NCAA West Region men’s and women’s track and field qualifiers and 28 individual NCAA All-West Region men and women in cross country.
“I look forward to providing a positive environment that will allow the student-athlete to obtain academic and athletic excellence. I also look forward to recruiting and coaching bright, energetic and passionate young men and women who seek the outstanding education and athletic opportunity that Cal Poly offers.”
Conover also has coached 26 Big West Conference individual champions in track and cross country, produced three Big West Conference Track Athletes of the Year, seven Big West Cross Country Athletes of the Year, two Freshman Track Athletes of the Year and six Freshman Cross Country Athletes of the Year.
He has coached 27 men and women to Cal Poly top-10 all-time track and field marks, including the school record-holder in the men’s 5,000 meters and women’s steeplechase.
The women’s cross country team, which he assisted before assuming full duties, had its highest conference finish in eight years in 2009 (third). Women’s cross country also earned NCAA All-Academic team honors in 2007 and won the 2004-05 and 2007-08 Big West Conference team GPA awards.
“Cal Poly has a long-standing tradition of excellence in the sports of track and field and cross country, with numerous All-Americans as well as alumni who went on to become Olympians,” Conover said. “That fact, combined with the number of successful coaches who came before me and the number of alumni who are currently successful high school and collegiate coaches, truly make it special to be the director of track and field and cross country at Cal Poly. The program has a special place in the hearts of many alumni and fans of the sport who have been associated with Cal Poly.”
Conover coached the Cal Poly athlete of the year in 2007 as well as the Big West Conference scholar-athlete of the year in 2005 and the Cal Poly scholar-athlete of the year in both 2005 and 2008.
Conover was a nine-time All-American distance runner at Humboldt State and earned the rare distinction of becoming an All-American in all three NCAA divisions (I, II and III). He was the national champion in the 10,000 meters in track in 1981 and in cross country, also in 1981.
In 1988, Conover was the Olympic Trials Champion in the marathon and went on to run at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He competed professionally from 1984-96 and was a four-time U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier.
A graduate of Miramonte High School in Orinda, Calif., Conover earned his bachelor’s degree in natural resource planning and interpretation at Humboldt State in 1983 and earned his master’s degree at Cal Poly in city and regional planning in 1989.
Conover was inducted into the Humboldt State University Hall of Fame in 1993.