La Verne: Justin Wood Named Men's and Women's Cross Country Head Coach

La Verne: Justin Wood Named Men's and Women's Cross Country Head Coach

Justin Wood has been named the new University of La Verne men's and women's cross country head coach, Interim Director of Athletics Scott Winterburn announced. Wood will also serve as the distance specialist assistant coach for the men's and women's track & field teams.

Wood brings with him 10 years of head coaching experience, most recently at Stevens Institute of Technology where he served as head coach for men's and women's cross country and men's and women's track and field for the last six years.

"We are extremely excited to have coach Wood join the Leo family," said Winterburn. "He is a strong coach and recruiter who brings to La Verne a proven history of success and will lead our cross country teams and distance track runners to new heights."

During his tenure with the Stevens, Wood led the Ducks to national prominence guiding his athletes to eight NCAA Division III individual national titles and four top-ten team finishes at NCAA DIII Track & Field Championships (4th, 7th, 9th, and 10th). He also saw his athletes earn 30 DIII All-American honors and 40 athletes qualify for national meets. In addition, 65 track and field program records were established under Wood's watch.

He guided the 2017 Stevens men's cross country team to an Empire 8 Championship, the squad's first conference title in 15 years and led the 2018 women's indoor track and field team to their first-ever Empire 8 Championship. In 2016, Wood led the women's cross country team to its first-ever appearance at the NCAA Championships where they placed 26th overall. Wood was recognized several times at the conference level while at Stevens, twice earning Empire 8 Women's Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year honors as well as winning Empire 8 Coach of the Year honors in 2017 for men's cross country and in 2013 for women's cross country. 

Wood helped his athletes earn five USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Year honors and six USTFCCCA Atlantic Region Athlete of the Year awards. At the conference level, his athletes won a total of 100 Empire 8 individual titles. His teams have also excelled in the classroom, garnering USTFCCCA All-Academic Team recognition 24 times. 

"I'd like to thank the committee and Interim Director of Athletics Scott Winterburn for the opportunity to be a part of the Leo family and to lead the men's and women's cross country program," said Wood. "I was impressed with every part of my time on campus meeting the staff, athletes, and administration. I am especially excited to learn what works for the student-athletes and to implement training that will lead them forward and upward. My goal is to establish ULV cross country and distance as an elite level DIII group in the near future."  

Wood guided distance runner Amy Regan to one of the best NCAA Division III careers of all time. Under Wood's tutelage, Amy won six nationals titles with two in cross country, two in outdoor track and field (5000m and 10,000m), and two in indoor track and field (5000m and 3000m). She also took second in both the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2017 NCAA DIII Outdoor Track and Field Championships to finish her career with 14 NCAA DIII All-American honors. Regan was undefeated during both of her national championship seasons in cross country (2014, 2016), cementing her spot as one of the best distance runners in the history of NCAA Division III. Regan was named USTFCCCA DIII Cross Country National Runner of the Year during her junior campaign, earned USTFCCCA Division III Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors following her senior season, and was twice named both Division III Honda Cross County Athlete of the Year and USTFCCCA Atlantic Region Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. 

Coach Wood's program produced Gladys Njoku who earned five All-American honors and won back-to-back high jump indoor national titles to go with two second-place finishes in the high jump at the outdoor championships. Her mark of 1.80m indoors still stands as tied for 4th highest all-time in NCAA DIII.    

In his final year with the Ducks, Gina Dello Russo earned a second-place finish in the 400m and a seventh-place finish in the 200m and Katie Weeks posted 10th place finishes in both the shot put and discus at the 2018 NCAA DIII Outdoor Track and Field Championships. He also helped Greg Arabagian place eighth in the 5000 meters at the meet, becoming Stevens' first-ever male All-American in outdoor track. Both Russo and Weeks earned indoor and outdoor Empire 8 Track & Field Athletes of the Year honors during the 2017-18 seasons.

Prior to joining the Ducks, Wood served as the head coach for men's and women's cross country and track & field at SUNY Delhi for four seasons where he led the men's cross country team to back-to-back NJCAA National Championships in 2009 and 2010 and four consecutive runner-up finishes in men's track and field (2009-2012). His 2010 men's cross country squad set an NJCAA DIII Cross Country Championship meet record with 22 points and six All-Americans which still stands today. The 2012 women's track and field team finished the season as the NJCAA runner-up and in 2011 both the men's and women's cross country teams ended the season as NJCAA runners-up.

His athletes also excelled individually under his leadership at Delhi. Thirteen men and ten women won individual national titles, 121 athletes earned NJCAA All-American honors, and 23 track and field program records were set with Wood at the helm.

Wood cleaned up the coaching awards while at Delhi. In 2010 he was named NJCAA National Coach of the Year for both men's cross country and men's indoor track & field. He earned NJCAA Region III Coach of the Year honors in 2011 for men's outdoor track and field, in 2010 for men's cross country, and in 2009 for women's cross country.

Wood began his coaching career at Southern Connecticut State as an assistant coach for the women's cross country and track and field teams. 

"We are excited to bring in a coach with the resume that Justin has," said track & field Head Coach Kevin Reid. "We are blessed to add a seasoned coach to our staff. While he is coming in as a cross country and distance specialist, he brings so much more to the table with his past head coaching experience. He is the right addition at the right time to push the University of La Verne Cross Country and track & field programs to the next level."

A great athlete in his own right, Wood won four individual national titles while competing at Delhi, twice winning the 800m to go with a championship in both the 1500m and the 5000m. He was also a part of a three of national title relay teams, twice in the 4x800m and once in the 4x400m. In cross country, Wood was a part of the SUNY Delhi NJCAA National Championship squad. He finished his junior college career undefeated against NJCAA DIII runners in track and earned nine NJCAA All-American honors. Wood left his mark at Delhi, setting program records in the 800m, 1000m, 1500m, indoor mile, and 3000m. All but this record in the 3000m still stand today. 

After finishing his junior college career, Wood transferred to Seton Hall University where he earned several All-Big East honors in the 4x800m relay and the distance medley relay. 

With eligibility still remaining as he began graduate school at Southern Connecticut State, Wood joined the Owls' squad and finished 10th in the 3000m steeplechase at the 2007 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships. At the elite club level, Wood set the Syracuse Club Elite Development team record in the 3000m steeplechase with a time of 9:03.4 set at The Penn Relays in 2009. 

Wood is a 2010 NJCAA DIII Cross Country/Track & Field Hall of Fame inductee and also a member of the SUNY Delhi Athletics 2016 Hall of Fame class.

-- Courtesy of La Verne Sports Information --