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Buford-Bailey honored as 2016 Nike Coach of the Year


INDIANAPOLIS -- University of Texas co-interim head coach and three-time Olympian Tonja Buford-Bailey has been named Nike Coach of the Year, USATF announced Thursday. Buford-Bailey’s pupils won three Olympic medals for Team USA in Rio and her Texas athletes captured six NCAA titles in addition.


Buford-Bailey will be honored on Saturday, December 3, at the Jesse Owens Awards in Orlando, Florida. The event is held in conjunction with USATF’s Annual Meeting. Tickets for the event are available on site beginning November 30 at the Hilton Lake Buena Vista Hotel.


“Receiving this award is a huge honor,” Buford-Bailey said. “It wouldn't be possible without the athlete's commitment to me and their leadership in mentoring all of their training partners and each other. I'm thankful to USATF, Nike and the University of Texas. I'm especially thankful to Gary Winckler, my mentor, who constantly told me when I was a runner that coaching was my gift.”


Since its inception in 1998, the Nike Coach of the Year has previously honored two female coaches as co-coaches of the year (1998, 2014). This is the first time in USATF history that a female has been honored individually as Nike Coach of the Year.


Olympians Morolake Akinosun, Courtney Okolo, Byron Robinson and Ashley Spencer all train under the 1996 Olympic 400m hurdles bronze medalist at the University of Texas and all were competing for the Longhorns within the last 18 months.


“The 2016 season would be what I would call a journey,” Buford-Bailey noted. “We talked about how important this season was going to be and what goals we wanted to accomplish. The focus was on the college season and to make certain that it carried on into the Olympic Trials and hopefully on to the Games. I took a lot of discipline and long-term motivation from the athletes and myself as their coach. We discussed how valuable that was to the process knowing it was going to be a long mentally challenging season for such young athletes.”


Okolo had a stellar 2016, winning gold with the U.S. women’s 4x400m relay at the Rio Olympic Games and the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland. Okolo also won four NCAA titles in 2016, two in the 400m and the 4x400m relays at NCAA Indoors and Outdoors, and the Texas senior broke her own collegiate record outdoors (49.78).


Spencer matched her mentor in Rio, winning bronze in the Olympic 400m hurdles and taking home Team USA’s 100th overall medal at the Rio Olympic Games. Spencer executed an impressive final 100 meters, going from sixth to third in the closing seconds of the race.


“Tonja has meant the world to me since 2011,” Spencer stated. “She's been my second mom, my inspiration, my tough love and my right hand man. I'm honored to have been able to call her my coach for all of these years and I look forward to many more.”


Akinosun won gold with the women’s 4x100m relay after anchoring Team USA to the fastest time in the preliminary round, participating in the first relay re-run in Olympic history. Akinosun also had an impressive 2016 as a senior at Texas, earning 2016 Big 12 Performer of the Year honors.


“Coach Bailey is so much more than just my coach,” Akinosun said. “She's a mother figure, advisor, mentor, friend, and someone who believes in me. She cares about me and everyone that she coaches as a person first and then an athlete...I'm extremely happy for her and honored to be coached by the Nike Coach of the Year.”


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Nike Coach of the Year

2016 Tonja Buford-Bailey

2015 Bobby Kersee

2014 Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs

2013 Lawrence Johnson

2012 Harry Marra

2011 Rana Reider

2010 Brooks Johnson

2009 Alberto Salazar

2008 Dwayne Miller

2007 James Li

2006 Clyde Hart

2005 Bobby Kersee

2004 Clyde Hart

2003 Bob Fraley

2001 Curtis Frye

2000 Dave Nielsen

1999 John Smith

1998 J.J. Clark, Sue Humphrey


Amanda Brooks
Marketing and Communications Manager
USA Track & Field

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