Al Schmidt is entering his third year as Director of Track and Field for Mississippi State. Regarded and respected nationwide as an authority on endurance running and training, Al Schmidt spent 23 seasons at the helm of Mississippi State’s men’s and women’s track and ﬁeld teams. Schmidt parlayed his 37 years of collegiate coaching experience into many individual and team accomplishments. In those 22 seasons, Schmidt has produced more than 52 All-Americans and more than 30 SEC champions.
In his first year as director, Schmidt organized a return of action at the newly renovated Carl Maddox Track and Field Complex. It had been over four years since a meet was held on MSU’s campus and when Schmidt got ready to bring it back he did it in a big way. The former coach had always dreamed of hosting a major event in Starkville and on Saturday, March 26, 2011, that dream became a reality, as the first Big Ten/SEC Challenge was held. The Big Ten may have walked away victorious in both men's and women's competitions, but as the Challenge was brought back to Starkville in 2012, the women of the SEC were able to come back with a win.
In addition to the Big Ten/SEC Challenge, Schmidt was instrumental in bringing back two other annual events to MSU. The month of April saw the return of the Bulldog Twilight Invitational as well as the Jace Lacoste Invitational, which is held in memory of a former Bulldog track star.
During his second year as program director in 2012, he saw even more success as the season continued. He finished the season with SEC Championships in two events and 14 athletes in nine events qualifying for the NCAA Championships, while coaching 12 athletes to All-American honors.
Schmidt’s final season as head coach at MSU was quite impressive. He coached seven Bulldog All-Americans, saw the Bulldogs have their seventh top 25 finish in the nation in the last nine years. MSU also finished 7th at the SEC Championships and 17th at the NCAA Championships. Nationally ranked every week of the season, MSU’s men reached as high as eighth the week they entered the NCAA Championships. The Bulldogs also had a record number of All-SEC Academics in 2010, with 15.
2010 also saw Schmidt coach three Lady Bulldog All-Americans, and see the Lady Bulldogs set records for the most national qualifiers and the most points by the team at the SEC Championships. Additionally, the women had a record number of All-SEC Academics with 18.
In 2009, Schmidt tutored six athletes to All-American status. Marrissa Harris was the lone Lady Bulldog to achieve the honor. The men’s 4x100-meter relay team, John Bailey, D’Angelo Cherry, Justin Christian and Dwight Mullings, ran a school record 39.06 seconds to claim fourth place at the NCAA Championships. The men’s team added three more All-Americans to the Bulldog team, with Cherry achieving recognition in the 100-meter dash, Mullings in the 400-meter dash, and Emanuel Mayers for his performance in the 400-meter hurdles.
MSU sent 16 athletes to the 2009 Mideast Regional Championships. Six Lady Bulldogs traveled to Louisville, Ky., to compete for NCAA Championship tickets. Wendy Copeland made her third trip to the post season, qualifying in the long and triple jump and 4x100-meter relay. Ten Bulldogs made the trip to the post season, with two relays (4x100 and 4x400) and the sprint events being the team’s focus. Bulldogs Mayers (400-meter hurdles), Mullings (400-meter dash), and the 4x100-meter relay all claimed top honors at the Regional Championships.
In 2008, Schmidt coached two athletes to become SEC Champions. Marrissa Harris won the heptathlon with a school record of 5,600 points. Jamil Hubbard won the 400-meter SEC title. During the SEC Outdoor Meet, 14 athletes qualified for the NCAA Regional Meet and 10 athletes scored in their events. The men placed eighth and the women placed 11th.
At the NCAA Regional meet, two Bulldogs-Jamil Hubbard and Golden Coachman, won titles in the 400- and the 800-meter runs. O’Neal Wilder took second in the 400-meter behind Hubbard, while Chris Woods took fourth in the 800-meter. The 4x400-meter relay team, consisting of Wilder, Hubbard, Woods, and Mayers, took first. The men’s team placed sixth. The 4x100-meter relay and Kendall May received at-large bids to the NCAA National Meet. Marrissa Harris qualified in the heptathlon.
The highlight of the 2008 season for Schmidt was being named the coach for the U.S. Men’s Under-23 team at the NACAC Championships.
In 2007, Schmidt guided five Bulldogs to All-American status. Schmidt also witnessed three school records broken. At the SEC Championships, the men’s team had a total of four athletes score 30 points to finish 11th overall. Among those scorers included Golden Coachman and Travis McKay scoring in the 800-meter run and 3000-meter steeplechase.
Out of the 21 events the Bulldogs competed in, 62 of the athletes marked a personal best in their respective event. There were also six regional qualifiers for the men’s team and two relay regional marks met. Bruce Davis, Ezra Jones, Nathan Daniels and Arthur Davis finished fourth at the NCAA Championships, with a time of three minutes, 3.49 seconds.
On 22 separate times during the 2007 season, 15 Lady Bulldogs met their personal best marks, along with seven regional qualifiers. Marrissa Harris finished fourth in the heptathlon at the SEC Championships with a personal-best 5,242 points, along with Jennifer McPherson who finished fourth in the 1500-meter run with a time of 4:20.87, and Michelle Corrigan who took sixth in the 10000-meter run with a time of 37:15.760. A total of 16 Lady Bulldogs scored a total of 19 points for MSU as they finished 11th at the meet.
In 2005, Schmidt witnessed six Bulldogs garner All-America accolades. At the 2005 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Elzie Coleman, Arthur Davis, LaChristopher Lewis and Jamel Ashley ran a school-record 3:01.63 to finish fifth in the 4x400-meter relay. Ashley placed second in the 400, while Lewis took 11th in the long jump to earn his first All-America honor in the event. At the Mideast Regional, Steve Mullings won the 100-meter dash title. Lewis also won the long jump title, while Ashley finished second in the 400-meter dash. Travis McKay finished seventh in the steeplechase, setting the third-best time in school history. As a team, the Bulldogs finished 19th in the last Trackwire 25 of the season.
On the women’s side, Meggan Hodge broke the MSU school record in the 3000-meter steeplechase with a 10:46.04 eighth-place finish at the SEC Championships. Jasmine Walls cleared a personal best to tie for second in the high jump. Crystal Averitt ended her career atop the all-time list in the hammer throw, while Lacey Johnson extended her school record in the pole vault.
Three-time All-American Tiffany McWilliams closed out her MSU career in 2004 by becoming the most decorated female athlete in Lady Bulldog track and field history. McWilliams repeated her 2003 feat of winning the outdoor 1500-meter title and also won the NCAA Indoor title in the mile. Behind McWilliams and a strong distance corps, MSU achieved a No. 12 national ranking.
On the men’s side, decathlete and All-American Trey Hardee set a school record in the event after tallying 8,041 points in a second-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Five Bulldogs were named All-Americans in 2003. Ashley, Davis, Lewis and Keston Nelson all earned the recognition following a third-place finish in the 4x400-meter relay at nationals. Ashley picked up the honor in the 400-meter dash in addition to the 4x4.
In 2003, McWilliams became the first woman in MSU track and field history to win a national championship. Running 4:06.75, McWilliams broke an NCAA Championships record en route to winning the 1500-meter run. She was also crowned SEC indoor champion in the mile, in addition to the outdoor 800- and 1500-meter runs.
At the Outdoor Championships, State tallied the second-highest point total with 20 points. MSU finished tied for 15th. Hardee took fifth in the decathlon for his first all-America honor, while Kelvin Harris ran 13.86 in the 110-meter hurdles to earn his first All-America nod.
The men topped all previous indoor squads at the NCAA Indoor Championships. The Bulldogs scored 15 points to score in the top 10 for the first time in school history. Browne won the 60-meter dash title (6.60), while Marquis Davis finished second in the 200 (20.70).
During 2002, Schmidt and the MSU program hosted the SEC Outdoor Championships. At the meet, State’s men scored 35 points as a team, the second-highest total of an MSU squad since his arrival. He also witnessed the men’s program tally its highest points total since 1991 at the SEC Indoor Championship.
Elisha Williams became the school’s first indoor all-American in 2001 after taking second in long jump. Later in the season, Williams became the second woman to become a double All-American in the same year. Schmidt also helped Falilatu Ogunkoya finish her MSU career in 2001 as a five-time All-American, and Camille Harper closed out her career as an All-American in the 100-meter dash.
The 1990s saw Aki Bradley benefit from the tutelage of Schmidt. Bradley became a double All-American at the 1994 NCAA Outdoor Championships, placing in both the 100- and 200-meter sprints. In 1992, MSU hosted the SEC Outdoor meet; the Bulldogs finished seventh overall.
Schmidt’s first men’s team in 1989 showed immediate improvement, finishing fifth at both the SEC Indoor and Outdoor Championships; marking the first time in five years the Bulldogs finished in the top half of the conference.
During Schmidt’s first three years, he saw Festus Igbinoghene earn six All-American awards in horizontal jumps, including three runner-up finishes in the triple jump.
Under Schmidt, State’s squads have also excelled in the classroom. Over 200 student-athletes have been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll. Three athletes - Rob Irwin, Tina Bridgeman and April Ecke- each earned Academic all-America honors. Distance runner Ecke earned the 1993 H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar Athlete of the Year. Chris Boldt earned First Team Academic All-District honors from the College Sports Information Directors of America in 2003, while Matt Denton collected the honor in 2005. Joining Boldt and Denton in 2006 and 2007 was Ryan Irwin who finished First Team Academic all-District for the Men and Joy Griffith who finished First Team Academic All-District for the Women. Zita Magloire finished with Second Team Academic All- District honors in 2006. Also, in 2006 the Lady Bulldogs were selected by the USTFCCCA, as an All-Academic Team. In 2007, both cross country teams were selected as All-Academic Teams.
PRIOR TO MSU
Before coming to MSU, Schmidt was instrumental in the success of Florida State University’s track and field program. First serving as assistant women’s track coach and head cross country coach, he later became an assistant men’s track coach and head cross country coach. Under his guidance, the Lady Seminoles won two national titles- the 1984 outdoor and 1985 indoor titles. The FSU women also claimed runner-up honors at the 1983 and 1985 outdoor meets.
Upon earning his bachelor’s degree from St. Louis University, Schmidt made his coaching debut as an assistant cross country coach at the University of Missouri-St. Louis before returning to his alma mater as head men’s track coach for the next five years. After spending two years in private business, Schmidt returned to the track in 1982 as a graduate assistant at the University of Kansas. Following his one season at KU, he began his six-year stint at Florida State.
In 1997, Schmidt served as a District 9 representative for the NCAA Women’s Cross Country Championships. Having rewritten the endurance curriculum for Levels I and II, Schmidt served as the vice-chairman of USA Track and Field’ Coaches Education Committee. Schmidt, 59, is married to the former Jessie Garfield of St. Louis, Mo. They are the parents of two children – daughter, Sara Lynne and son, Daniel.