NORMAN, Okla. — University of Oklahoma head cross country/track and field coach Martin Smith announced the hiring of four members of his new staff Thursday.
Dana Boone, Jeremy Fischer, Mark Napier and Skip Pickens will join Smith as members of the track and field staff for the 2005-06 season.
"I think the most exciting thing about Dana, Mark and Jeremy," Smith said, "is that all three are highly talented and extremely skilled professionals. They all bring different skills to the table that gives the potential to have a very well-rounded staff with good chemistry."
Boone, 35, comes to OU from Louisiana State and will serve as the women's sprints, hurdles and relays coach.
"Dana is someone that has been able to have an outstanding progression with her career," Smith said. "She has been under outstanding teachers that have become her mentors and has become involved with very successful women's programs – South Carolina, five years at Texas and LSU this past year."
During the 2005 season, Boone helped guide Hazelann Regis to three All-America selections at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Regis was runner-up in the 400, fourth in the 200 and anchored the 4x400-meter relay team to a fourth-place finish.
Boone also trained a freshmen foursome – Kelly Baptiste, Ashley Owens, Deonna Lawrence and Jessica Ohanaja – that earned a fifth-place finish in the 4x100 at the outdoor championships. Baptiste earned three All-America certificates at the meet, with a fourth in the 100 and eighth in the 200.
Prior to LSU, Boone was an assistant coach at the University of Texas where she oversaw field events and assisted with sprints and hurdles.
Field events at UT thrived under her watch, as 15 athletes earned All-Big 12 honors, six athletes qualified for the NCAA Championships and four school records were established.
During her tenure, the Longhorn women captured two indoor (2002 and 2003) and outdoor titles (2003 and 2004).
Boone also enjoyed successful stints as an assistant at Tulane, Middle Tennessee State and South Carolina, coaching sprints, hurdles and jumps at each stop.
"She worked under an extremely talented coach in Dean Hayes at Middle Tennessee," Smith continued. "She has an extremely impressive résumé and has been a part of two of the best programs in the country in Texas and LSU – the last two national outdoor champions. She's been in an environment that will bring a lot to the table for us in an environment that we eventually want to develop our women to."
An accomplished jumper at Virginia, Boone won seven ACC titles and earned All-America honors six times. She still holds school records for indoor long jump (6.44 meters), outdoor long jump (6.65 m) and outdoor triple jump (13.05 m). Boone graduated from UVA in 1991 with a bachelor's degree in communication studies and earned her master's in physical education at Middle Tennessee State in 1995.
"Dana and Jeremy were very skilled athletes who competed at a national level," Smith said. "That experience is invaluable to the type of athlete we want to produce at Oklahoma."
Fischer, 29, joins the Sooners after five years at Cal State Northridge where he coached jumpers and decathletes and was recognized as the 2005 NCAA Division I West Region Men's Jumps/Multi Events Coach of the Year.
At Oklahoma, he will coach men's and women's jumps and heptathlon.
"Jeremy is considering one of the promising, young, talented coaches coming up through the ranks," Smith said. "He's a real student, as are all good coaches, and has worked exhaustingly to become technically very skilled and proficient. He's also got an eye for talent that's remarkable for someone so young."
Of the five student-athletes that represented the Matadors at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 2005, four were Fischer's jumpers.
In 2005, the CSNU men won their second consecutive Big West Conference outdoor championship. Fischer coached Alex Marbley and Johnny Wiley, respectively, to high jump and triple jump titles and decathlete Justin Johnson to a runner-up finish.
During the indoor season, Marbley, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation high jump champion, and long-jumper Jason Romero were the only Matadors to establish qualifying marks for the NCAA Indoor Championships.
Prior to his time at CSNU, Fischer spent three seasons (1998-2000) as the cross country/track and field administrative assistant at Wisconsin and served as the director of the Badger Jet Camp from 1996 to 2000.
During his tenure, Wisconsin won the Big Ten Triple Crown (cross country, indoor track and outdoor track championships) in 2000 and 2001.
As an athlete, Fischer was a world-class high jumper at Wisconsin where he was coached by Napier. Fischer earned All-America honors and finished seventh at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials. He graduated in 1998 with a bachelor's in molecular biology/nutritional science. Fischer was born in Seoul, South Korea.
"Mark and Jeremy had a very close coach-athlete experience," Smith said. "They stayed close throughout Jeremy's career and development as a coach and now they get a chance to work together. They are both very, very excited about that.
"I know both of them very well from our years at Wisconsin and we've continued to keep in touch with each other as I went to Oregon and Jeremy to Cal State Northridge."
Napier, 40, enters his first season with OU overseeing men's and women's pole vault, men's and women's throws and decathlon.
"Mark and I were together at Wisconsin," Smith said. "Obviously, we got to know each other very well. Mark is one of the most gifted, complete field event coaches in the country. He possesses some really nice, natural skills and talent that, when applied, lend themselves to success."
Napier most recently served a 12-year tenure at Wisconsin where developed one of the nation's top jumping and multi-event programs. With his assistance, the Badgers won their second consecutive Big Ten Triple Crown in 2005 and two of his athletes qualified for the USA Track and Field Championships.
He has also guided his athletes to 20 All-America honors, including 1997 NCAA decathlon champion James Dunkleberger.
"Mark has an ability to bring out the best in the people around him – not only athletes, but coaches," Smith said. "He also has an ability to create an environment where athletes work very hard, but enjoy it. He's definitely a player's coach. Athletes love to compete under Mark. They enjoy the training and they have an incredible collegiate experience."
Napier made his name in the Big Ten, coaching 27 individual conference champions during his tenure, but his athlete's accomplishment's were not just on the field. In 2005, two of Wisconsin's three track and field Academic All-Americans were Napier's pupils – Nathan Brown and Yael Peled. Brown posted a 3.895 GPA in biochemistry while also finishing 12th in the decathlon at the NCAAs and earning an All-Big Ten nod. Peled graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA in computer science/mathematics and ended her collegiate career ranked eighth on UW's all-time triple jump list.
Prior to Wisconsin, Napier was the field events coach at Blinn Junior College in Brenham, Texas. At Blinn, Napier's 1992 and 1993 teams were the indoor and outdoor junior college national champions.
In 1991, while serving as a graduate assistant coach, he received a master's degree in athletics administration from Mississippi State. He earned a bachelor's in physical education at Florida State, where he twice served as track team captain and competed in the decathlon, hammer throw and triple jump.
Pickens, 43, will serve a vital role as the track and field program's director of operations.
In this position, Pickens oversees administrative duties, student-athlete relations, event planning and travel.
"Track is a very complicated sport," Smith said. "If the men's and women's programs are combined it becomes six countable NCAA sports. Logistically, it's not your traditional sport. It's not uncommon that a track program will have bits and pieces of its team at three or four or five different locations. Skip was with me at Oregon for four years as my right-hand man and director of operations. He's, administratively, incredibly talented. He's a former track and field athlete himself. He knows the sport, so he's able to combine his administrative skills to the sport well. Having him allows our event coaches to concentrate more specifically on just coaching and recruiting."
Pickens joins the Sooners after serving four years, including three in a similar role, with Smith at the University of Oregon.
In 2001, the Beaverton, Ore., native joined the Ducks as a volunteer men's distance coach. That season, the cross country squad made its 27th national championships appearance, finishing 13th in the 31-team field.
On the track, 10,000-meter runner Jason Hartmann tallied his second top-four NCAA finish (fourth) and was second among collegiate athletes at the USA Track and Field Championships (eighth).
Pickens has an extensive knowledge of endurance training, kinesiology and physiology, as well as a background in teaching and computer programming.
Before joining the Ducks' staff, Pickens assisted Oregon-area post-collegiate coach Dr. Richard Brown, who has trained several Olympians. Earlier in his career, Pickens also served as an advisor to former Eugene, Ore., resident Steve Plascencia, a two-time Olympian and World Championships qualifier in the 5,000 and 10,000.
In 1998, Pickens earned a master\'s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Oregon. He received his bachelor's in physical education from Oregon State University in 1986 and served as a teaching assistant in the respiratory dynamics lab. He has had various articles published on training, including one in the Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise journal.
Smith will hire one more assistant for the upcoming season to serve as the men's sprints and relays coach.
The first competition under Smith's direction takes place when the men's and women's cross country teams begin the 2005 season Saturday, Sept. 3, at the Golden Hurricane Festival in Tulsa, Okla.