As Kelly Lycan begins his 12th year as the head coach of the Western Michigan University women’s cross country and track and field teams, the word most often used to describe his program is success.
Since being named the Broncos’ fifth cross country/track and field coach on August 2, 2001, WMU has made startling improvements. WMU achieved its highest finish ever at the Mid-American Conference Indoor Championships by placing second after finishing third in 2006. WMU also finished in second place at both the indoor and outdoor MAC Championships in 2008 and again indoors in 2011. The outdoor team scored the most points by a second place team in the history of the meet in 2008.
The 2010-11 season was one of growth for the Broncos. WMU had young teams in both the cross country and track and field seasons. The cross country program improved greatly, finishing sixth at the MAC Championships while senior Samantha Draney was named Second Team All-MAC. A good mix of youth and experience helped the Broncos take second place at the 2011 Indoor MAC Championships with Iris Campbell winning the 400 meter dash and Ashley Hunault winning the long jump title. While the team finished fourth at the Outdoor MAC Championships, the Broncos still had great success with Campbell being named MVP and Rachel Whitley earning Most Outstanding Performer after winning both the 800 meter run and 1,500 meter run. Campbell went on to compete at the NCAA East Preliminaries in the 400 meter hurdles, while Andrea Hiler competed in the discus along with Sarah Morris and Stephanie Mitchell. Campell and Hiler would both move on as Campbell competed at the NCAA Championships and HIler at the USA Junior National Championships.
The 2009-10 season saw the track and field program claim its ninth All-American after senior Irene Cooper placed third in the weight throw at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships. Cooper finished her career breaking her own record in the weight throw and also finished with a personal-best and nearly school record in the shot put at the Indoor MAC Championships, in which the Broncos placed third. Records also fell in the indoor and outdoor long jump as Ashley Hunault had a career-best season, winning MAC titles in both events.
During the 2008 season WMU saw Becky Horn finish in fifth place at the NCAA Indoor Championships and in third place at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Horn was named an All-American along with Danielle Brown, who broke a 10-year old school record in the 400-meter hurdles and finished in seventh place at the outdoor championships. The 4x400 relay team of Horn, Brown, Victoria Chatman and Jennifer Sabra broke the WMU and MAC records that the team set in 2007 at the NCAA Mid East Regional Championship with a time of 3:33.57
Western Michigan had three individuals and one relay team qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2007. The first All-American since 1998, Becky Horn advanced to the semifinals in the 800m run, while Kristalyn Mauch and Danielle Brown reached the event in the shot put and 400m hurdles, respectively, with Mauch breaking the school shot put record along the way. The 4x400m relay team advanced to the championship for the second-straight season. Stacy Orosz also broke the school pole vault record in the 2007 NCAA Regional.
The 2007 outdoor season marked the second straight year, the Broncos vaunted 4x400 relay team set a new school and MAC record at the NCAA Mideast Regional with a time of 3:34.78. The quartet of Horn, Sheriese Lucas, Joy Eloms and Shayna Sangster then advanced to the NCAA Championships in Sacramento, Calif., where they finished in the top 20 to give Western Michigan its third top-20 finish in that event in the last five years. Brown also competed in the national championships by placing 20th in the 400 meter hurdles.
WMU sent two athletes (Alexis Brown, Irene Cooper) to the USA Junior Nationals for a third-straight summer in 2007. Both earned All-America status at the event. Cooper, Ashley Hunault and Victoria Chatman returned in 2008, with Cooper winning the hammer throw.
In 2005, the Broncos finished fourth at the MAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships, the program’s highest finish in 18 years. Prior to his arrival, the Broncos finished 164 points out of first place at the MAC Championships. Just two years later, Lycan, 48, led the Broncos to the very brink of the championship, finishing a mere 16 points from a MAC title.
The 2005 season saw Lycan send six individuals and a relay to the NCAA Mideast Regional in Bloomington, Ind., as the 4x400 squad qualified for the NCAA Championships for the second time in three years. The mile relay claimed dual MAC titles, winning indoors and outdoors while setting MAC records both indoors and outdoors. WMU also produced its first-ever heptathlon champion (Katie Pickette) and sent a pair of athletes (Becky Horn, Kari Richards) to the USA Junior Nationals.
In 2004, Lycan advanced seven athletes to the NCAA Mideast Regional in Baton Rouge, La. His expertise in the quarter mile events was evident as a WMU athlete won the MAC 400 meter title for the fourth time in six outings while the 4x400 relay qualified for its second straight NCAA Regional.
The Broncos’ cross country squad had one of the best seasons in school history in 2006 by winning three straight races to claim the first three-win season at WMU since 2002. Jill Odom won the George Dales Invitational to give the Broncos their first meet winner since 2004.
During the 2005 cross country season, the Broncos finished sixth at the MAC Championships with Odom earning All-MAC recognition as a freshman.
In 2004, Lycan coached a pair of All-MAC cross country performers in Meryl Marsh and Rachael Lowe, the first Broncos to earn such honors in 10 years. He also led WMU to first place finishes at the Valparaiso Invitational and George Dales Invitational. In all, Lycan’s squads have collected six cross country titles in five seasons. In 2001, WMU defeated Notre Dame in a home dual meet.
Lycan has coached 28 individual MAC Champions and relay squads in his seven years at WMU, ending a school drought of MAC Champions which had stretched back to 1997.
The 2003 indoor and outdoor seasons were highlighted by 23 school records. Lycan put together the fastest 4x400 in the state of Michigan, a group that won the MAC Championship and qualified for the NCAAs — becoming the first WMU relay to qualify for the national meet. Another first for the Bronco program was the crowning of WMU’s first-ever female Drake Relays Champion in Sarah Hinkley (10,000 meters).
Before arriving at WMU, Lycan spent seven years (1993-00) as the top assistant at Ball State University. During those years the Cardinals won a total of seven indoor and outdoor MAC Championships, where he tutored 41 individual MAC Champions.
Lycan has also experienced great success at the elite level, having coached former Ball State star LaTasha Jenkins to an NCAA Championship in the 200m in 1999. Her time of 22.29 is still the American collegiate record, making her the fastest American college woman ever. Lycan also coached Jenkins in 2000, when she teamed up with Marion Jones to set a world record in the 4x200m relay and later qualified for the finals of the 200m at the 2000 Olympic Trials.
Lycan began his coaching career at the University of Arkansas (1983-90) where he helped take the Lady Razorbacks from the bottom of the Southwest Conference to a team ranked by Track and Field News as one of the top-20 in the nation. Lycan also spent time as the men’s assistant coach at Southwest Missouri State (1993-94) and was an assistant at Eastern Michigan (1992-93).
A native of Wooster, Ohio, Lycan received a bachelor of fine arts degree in creative writing from Bowling Green in 1981, while lettering in football and track. He still ranks third in kickoff return average, averaging 25.9 yards during the 1981 season. Lycan went on to earn his master’s in creative writing from Arkansas in 1990. Still an active competitor, Lycan finished third in the 110m hurdles for athletes ages 45-49 at the U.S. National Master’s meet in 2006, and also finished second at the 2005 U.S. National Master’s Decathlon championships.
Kelly and his wife Nicole are the parents of two children, a daughter, Clare (10) and a son, Grady (8).