Aug. 27, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- The University of Georgia track and field and cross country program has added former alumnus Patrick Cunniff as its distance coach, according to an announcement from Bulldog head coach Wayne Norton on Monday.
Cunniff, who competed for Georgia’s cross country and track and field teams from 1988 to 1991, will lead the Bulldog cross country squad this fall and then guide the team’s distance runners during the indoor and outdoor track seasons.
"Coach Cunniff has taken a rewarding and exciting journey from UGA as a distance runner to coaching in Texas, California and now back to the University of Georgia,” said Norton. “The time that he was away from this great university has not been wasted. He has learned a lot and developed into a very successful distance coach. He has been affiliated with three outstanding programs in the University of Texas, Texas Christian University, and Cal State Long Beach. It has been a long journey but he has obtained some invaluable experiences that will help him to continue the success Georgia has had in the distance events over the last 12 years or so.”
Norton continued about the hiring of Cunniff, who comes to the Bulldogs after coaching at Long Beach State the past five years.
"Coach Cunniff knows how to coach and recruit and he loves distance running and he loves UGA,” Norton said. “We are fortunate to be getting a Georgia man to guide our distance runners."
A native of North Kingstown, R.I., Cunniff came to UGA after serving five years as Long Beach State’s cross country and assistant track coach from 2007-12. His distance runners highlighted Cunniff’s final season with the 49ers by winning a conference individual championship in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. Each one of these titles came with a school record performance at the respective conference meets.
In addition to helping lead Long Beach to 2008 and 2011 Big West Conference men’s outdoor team championships, Cunniff put together an impressive resume with the 49ers. He watched his distance runners set school records 25 times, coached seven student-athletes to the NCAA Preliminary Round and led five to qualify for the NCAA Regionals. In the classroom, his runners earned CoSIDA All-Academic team honors from 2007-11.
“I am extremely excited to be returning to UGA to coach cross country and track and field,” said Cunniff. “I want to thank Coach Norton and Jim Booz for this opportunity and I'm honored to join such a great staff. My wife and I are thrilled to be back closer to family and so many friends.
“I am also eager to get to work with this group of men and women. From everything I have seen and heard, it is just a great group of kids with a lot of talent and excellent team attitude. As an alumnus of the program, I have followed the team and have been impressed by the results. I believe we can build on what this program has already accomplished. I will work incredibly hard to help these athletes keep reaching higher goals. We want to establish Georgia as a consistent national presence in cross country and on the track. It is a cliché, but Georgia track and field and cross Country is a ‘dream job’ for me and I can't wait to get started.”
Getting his collegiate coaching start in the state of Texas, Cunniff spent two years coaching at Texas Christian University (2004-06). Similar to his years at Long Beach, his resume was quickly filled with numerous accolades. Cunniff coached seven NCAA Division I Championship qualifiers (three cross country, one indoor track, three outdoor track), guided his team members to 12 individual conference championships and coached student-athletes who set school records four times.
Cunniff directed the Horned Frogs to a runner-up finish at the 2004 Conference USA Championships and a fourth-place finish at the NCAA South Central Regional, highlighted by having the individual champion on the women’s side. He also assisted in coaching Jackson Langat to the 2006 NCAA indoor 800 crown. His cross country teams maintained a GPA over 3.0 during his tenure in Fort Worth.
His first coaching stop came at the University of Texas as a volunteer assistant. During his time in Austin, Cunniff worked to help the Longhorns win the 2003 and 2004 Big XII Outdoor Championships as well as the 2003 South Central Regionals in cross country. Also in 2003, the Texas track team registered a second-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Transferring to Georgia from UNC-Charlotte, Cunniff competed for the Bulldogs from the 1988 cross country season to the 1991 track and field season. He became a regular contributor for Georgia’s cross country team and made his way into the school’s all-time top-10 list in the 10,000. Cunniff graduated in June 1991 with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science.
He and his wife, Katie, have a 1-year-old daughter named Casidy.
Cunniff replaces Jeff Pigg, who recently was hired as the University of North Florida’s Director of Cross Country/Track and Field.
Georgia’s cross country teams host the Georgia Invitational at the UGA Equestrian Complex in Bishop, Ga., on Saturday morning. The Bulldog men will take the 8000-meter course at 8 a.m. while the Lady Bulldogs will run in the 5000 race at 8:45 a.m.