SEATTLE – (July 27) Long time track and field and cross country coach Kelly Sullivan has been named Seattle University’s Head Coach for the men’s and women’s track and field and cross country programs, Director of Athletics Shaney Fink announced Thursday.

“Coach Sullivan’s commitment to the holistic development of student-athletes aligns perfectly with the mission of Seattle University,” said Fink. “He is a proven competitor with tremendous experience and outstanding character, who will immediately propel our programs forward. We are thrilled to welcome Coach Sullivan to the Redhawk family.”

Sullivan most recently served as the head coach of women’s track and field and cross country at Oregon State from 2004 until announcing his retirement from the position in May 2017. He has also coached at Willamette University, Auburn and Clackamas Community College. In more than two decades of coaching, Sullivan has earned 24 conference or regional Coach of the Year honors in cross country and track and field, including the 2002 and 2003 NCAA West Region Track Coach of the Year for men and women.

“I am very excited and honored to be named the new track and field and cross country coach at Seattle University,” said Sullivan. “I want to thank Director of Athletics Shaney Fink and Associate AD Eric Guerra for offering me this opportunity. From the first conversations, to doing my own research on the amazing academic and athletic environment at Seattle University, to meeting some the current student-athletes and committee members during the interview process, it really became evident to me that Seattle University is a very special place and we can do some great things here. I am really looking forward to working with current assistant coach Chad Pharis, meeting the current student-athletes and getting to work continuing to build programs that everyone can be very proud of!”

Sullivan re-established track and field and cross country at Oregon State after a 16-year hiatus. Beginning in 2004 with just a distance program, one coaching position, one full in-state scholarship and no track and field facility, he departed the program with 21 event areas, 18 full scholarships, three coaching positions and a full-time director of operations.

He oversaw every facet of building the program, including fundraising and development of the Whyte Track and Field Center facility, and later re-establishing two-sport men’s football and track and field competitions for indoor and outdoor track and field. Under Sullivan’s guidance, Oregon State football student-athlete Jordan Bishop became the first Beaver, male or female, to earn All-America status when he finished tied for ninth in the high jump at the NCAA Championships in June 2010. 

From 1997-2003, Sullivan served as the head coach at Willamette University where he guided the men's track and field team to a sixth-place finish nationally in 2003, while the men's cross country squad was fifth in 2002. In 2003, his women's cross country team placed eighth nationally the highest finish in school history and he guided the Bearcats to their first-ever NWC women's cross country title in 2000. Sullivan mentored 23 Division III All-Americans at Willamette, including individuals who won five national championships. Of Sullivan’s national champions, Nick Symmonds went on to compete for Team USA in the 800m in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. Sullivan also oversaw construction and design for a new track facility at Willamette in 1998.

Before coaching the Bearcats, Sullivan was head men's and women's cross country coach and assistant track and field coach at Auburn from 1984-96. During that time, Sullivan's 1985 men's team finished 12th at the NCAA Championships, his female athletes broke every Auburn distance record and earned trips to the NCAA Cross Country Championships in 1994 and 1995.

At Auburn, Sullivan coached 36 All-Americans in cross country and track, including 1988 steeplechase Olympian and former American indoor 3000 meter record holder Brian Abshire who started with Sullivan at Clackamas CC prior to transferring when Sullivan took the job at Auburn. Sullivan also coached the first female distance All-American in school history. His last two women's teams placed 16th and 13th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, just six years after he took over the women's distance program.

Prior to coaching at Auburn, Sullivan headed the cross country program and was the assistant track and field coach at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, Ore., coaching 24 NJCAA All-Americans from 1980-84. His men's cross country teams won four straight Oregon Community College titles and four straight NJCAA West Regional titles. His 1981 and 1983 teams were fourth at the NJCAA Cross Country Nationals while the 1982 team was NJCAA runner-up.

Sullivan was a Team USA Assistant Coach at the 2001 World Track & Field Championships and an Assistant Men's Coach in charge of distance events for the 1994 USA Olympic Festival. From 1992-04, Sullivan served as the USATF Men's Distance Development Chair where he oversaw development of 1500m, 5000m, 10000m, 3000m steeplechase and marathon, and traveled extensively overseas with the USA Emerging Elite Distance team. From 1988-92, Sullivan was an assistant with Men's Development working with the 3000m steeplechase.

A distance runner from 1975-77 at Clackamas Community College and from 1977-1979 at Willamette University, Sullivan was a 1979 NAIA All-American in cross country and the 3000m Steeplechase. He went on to be inducted into the Willamette Hall of Fame as both an athlete and head coach.

Sullivan was inducted into the Clackamas Community College Hall of Fame in December 2014, and into the National Junior College Hall of Fame in 1986.

Sullivan graduated from Neah-Kah-Nie High School in Rockaway Beach, Ore. In 1990, Sullivan was inducted into the Neah-Kah-Nie High Hall of Fame. At Willamette, he earned a B.S. in history and education.


What They’re Saying About Coach Sullivan

“Seattle University just made a terrific hire in Kelly Sullivan. I am incredibly excited for Kelly and this wonderful opportunity to move to the greatest city in the country and work at this fantastic university. It is a perfect fit. He was my coach and is the reason I got into coaching and I know firsthand what he Is capable of. He will positively impact every athlete and every member of the Seattle U family the moment he steps onto campus. Kelly is truly one of the greatest human beings and coaches I have ever been around. He is well respected by his peers, possesses tremendous knowledge, and is filled with passion for the sport and working with young people. I look forward to watching great things happen for Kelly and see this as tremendous opportunity to grow the sports of track and field and cross country in the city of Seattle.”
- Greg Metcalf, University of Washington Cross Country and Track & Field Head Coach

"Congratulations to Seattle University on a great hire. In Kelly Sullivan you get a very good coach, but also even a better person. Kelly is perfectly aligned with the values of Seattle University and this hire is a great fit for everyone."
- Bob de Carolis, former Oregon State University Director of Athletics

“Kelly Sullivan has dedicated his life to the coaching profession, but more importantly to making a difference in the lives of those he’s had the opportunity to guide as student-athletes in his programs. He has led programs at nearly every level of intercollegiate athletics with the one common denominator being the success that soon followed. There is no one more respected in the coaching profession than Kelly and your staff and student-athletes will enjoy working alongside him daily.”
- Layne Anderson, University of Tennessee Assistant Coach (Distance) / Recruiting Coordinator (former Iowa Cross Country Head Coach, Track & Field Assistant)