Karen Dennis

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position Director of Track & Field and Cross Country

Alma Mater Michigan State '77 and '79

One of the most respected names in the track and field community, Karen Dennis is in her seventh season as director of track & field and cross country at The Ohio State and is in her 18th season overall in Columbus. Dennis spent eight seasons (2006-2014) as the Ohio State women’s track and field/cross country head coach and was an assistant track coach for four seasons (2003-2006) prior to her appointment as program director for both the men’s and women’s programs.

Dennis, who was inducted into the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Coaches Hall of Fame in 2018 and who is also in the Michigan State (2019) and Ohio State (2020) Athletics Halls of Fame, has Ohio State positioned as one of the top programs in the Big Ten Conference and nationally. Dennis’ Buckeyes have captured nine Big Ten titles, including women’s indoor (2011, 2015, 2019, 2020) and outdoor (2011, 2012, 2019) crowns as well as men’s indoor and outdoor championships in 2018, the first in 25 years.

Dennis has been honored as the Big Ten’s track and field coach of the year 10 times, including five honors in the last three years with the 2020 women’s indoor coach of the year honor her most recent.

Dennis’ coaching leadership on the national and international track and field circuit is highlighted by an appointment as the head coach of the U.S. women’s track and field team at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Prior to her Olympic coaching duties with Team USA, Dennis was an assistant coach of U.S. national teams at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenberg, Sweden; the 1991 Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba; and the 1989 World University Championships in Duisburg, Germany.

Dennis is also a member of the USA Track & Field International Competition Committee and a past president of the Athletic Congress Women’s Track Coaches Association. She has also served as a member of the NCAA Women’s Track and Field Committee and the NCAA Track Coaches Association.

Over the past four decades Dennis has been the head coach at three Division I institutions: Michigan State (1981-92), UNLV (1992-2002) and Ohio State University. Dennis has mentored hundreds of women and men throughout her career many of whom have become coaches, lawyers, doctors, educators, entrepreneurs, engineers and wonderful parents.

A graduate of Michigan State University, Dennis earned a bachelor’s degree in public affairs management with a minor in physical education in 1977; and a master’s degree in sports administration in 1979. A native of Detroit, Mich., she is the proud mother of Dr. Ebony Dennis a practicing clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst with a private practice in Washington, D.C.

Karen Dennis Coaching Career
2014-Present:  Director of Track & Field and Cross Country, Ohio State
2006-2013:      Women’s Track & Field/Cross Country Head Coach, Ohio State
2003-2005:      Assistant Coach, Ohio State
1992-2002:      Head Women’s Coach, UNLV
1981-1991:      Head Women’s Coach, Michigan State
1977-1981:      Assistant Coach, Michigan State

National Coaching Appointments

  • 2000 – Head Coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team, 2000 Sydney Olympic Games
  • 1995 – Assistant Coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team, 1995 World Championships in Gothenberg, Sweden
  • 1991 – Assistant Coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team, Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba
  • 1989 – Assistant Coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team, World University Championships in Duisburg, Germany

Big Ten Team Championships (10)
2020 – Women’s Indoor
2019 – Women’s Outdoor
2019 – Women’s Indoor
2018 – Men’s Indoor
2018 – Men’s Outdoor
2015 – Women’s Indoor
2012 – Women’s Outdoor
2011 – Women’s Outdoor
2011 – Women’s Indoor
1982 – *Women’s Outdoor
*Head coach at Michigan State

Big Ten Coach of the Year (9)
2020 – Women’s Indoor
2019 – Women’s Outdoor
2019 – Women’s Indoor
2018 – Men’s Indoor
2018 – Men’s Outdoor
2015 – Women’s Indoor
2012 – Women’s Outdoor
2011 – Women’s Outdoor
2011 – Women’s Indoor

NCAA Team Championship Appearances (35)
2019 – Women’s Indoor (4th)
2019 – Women’s Outdoor
2019 – Men’s Indoor
2019 – Men’s Outdoor
2018 – Women’s Indoor
2018 – Women’s Outdoor
2017 – Women’s Indoor
2017 – Men’s Indoor
2017 – Women’s Outdoor
2017 – Men’s Outdoor
2016 – Women’s Indoor
2016 – Men’s Indoor
2016 – Women’s Outdoor
2016 – Men’s Outdoor
2015 – Women’s Indoor
2015 – Women’s Outdoor
2015 – Men’s Outdoor
2014 – Women’s Indoor
2014 – Men’s Indoor
2014 – Men’s Outdoor
2013 – Women’s Indoor
2013 – Women’s Outdoor
2012 – Women’s Indoor
2012 – Women’s Outdoor
2011 – Women’s Indoor
2011 – Women’s Outdoor
2010 – Women’s Indoor
2010 – Women’s Outdoor
2009 – Women’s Outdoor
2008 – Women’s Indoor
2008 – Women’s Outdoor
2007 – Women’s Indoor
2007 – Women’s Outdoor
2006 – Women’s Indoor
2006 – Women’s Outdoor

NCAA National Champions (5)

  • Sade Olatoye, weight throw – 2019 indoors
  • Julie Rizk, mile run – 2019 indoors
  • Zach Bazile, long jump – 2018 outdoors
  • Christina Manning, 60-meter hurdles – 2012 indoors
  • Christina Manning, 100-meter hurdles – 2012 outdoors