Ken O?Brien enters his 36th year as head coach of the UMass men?s track and field program. He is the fourth head coach of track and field in the school?s 102-year history of the sport that dates back to 1897.
A native of Foxboro, Mass., O?Brien won 10 letters in football, basketball, baseball and track and captained all four sports his senior year at Foxboro High School. While an undergrad at UMass, O?Brien won six letters in cross country and track. O?Brien competed as a top performer on a cross country squad that won three consecutive Yankee Conference titles and the 1961 New England championship. An outstanding competitor in track and field, his 1:52:70 conference half-mile record remained unbroken for 10 years.
O?Brien, the co-recipient of the ECAC Merit Award in 1963 to the outstanding student-athlete at UMass, graduated with honors from the school of physical education in the same year. Upon graduation, he served two years as a graduate assistant coach at Ohio University. He worked under the legendary coach, and member of the Track and Field Hall of Fame, Stan Huntsman, earning his Master?s degree in 1964 from the Athens, Ohio, institution.
O?Brien started his first full-time coaching job at the University of Bridgeport (Conn.) in the fall of 1965. Nine months later he had guided the program that had never scored a single point in the Collegiate Track Conference meet to a second-place team finish. He returned to his alma mater in 1966 and served as an assistant coach for 18 months under Bill Footnick.
In O?Brien?s 35 seasons coaching cross country and track and field at UMass, the Minutemen have won 18 conference titles (Yankee, Atlantic 10 and Eastern), four New England crowns, two IC4A titles and have had seven All-America performers. In 1999, O?Brien was named NCAA District 1 Track and Field Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season, and the fourth time he has won the award in track and field to go along with District 1 Coach of the Year honors for cross country on four different occasions in his 35-year career at UMass.
A long time contributor to the sport of track and field, O?Brien has served numerous regional and national associations. He served as secretary of the NCAA Cross Country Coaches Association from 1975-1980, has been president of the IC4A coaches association and was re-selected to the coaching staff of the National Olympic Development Distance Runners Training Center at Lake Placid, N.Y.
In his spare time, he is a golf and baseball enthusiast and has coached a Little League team in Amherst for 20 years.
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