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Chris Woods named MSU track and field head coach; April Thomas promoted to associate head coach

After guiding the Mississippi State men’s team to its third-highest point total in school history at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships earlier this month, Chris Woods has been named head coach of the Bulldog men’s and women’s track and field teams, Director of Athletics John Cohen announced on Friday.

Posted: Jun 15, 2019 7:47 PM

STARKVILLE, Miss. (MSU Athletics/WTVA) - After guiding the Mississippi State men’s team to its third-highest point total in school history at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships earlier this month, Chris Woods has been named head coach of the Bulldog men’s and women’s track and field teams, Director of Athletics John Cohen announced on Friday.

“We conducted a national search, and the best fit for our next head coach was right here in Starkville,” Cohen said. “I am excited for Chris and the future of Mississippi State track and field. Chris knows exactly what it means to be a Bulldog having lettered and served as assistant coach and interim head coach at Mississippi State. Our program continues to produce many of the world’s best, All-Americans and champions at a record pace. Chris understands what it takes for our program to continue the path to championships and develop our student-athletes to the fullest. My sincere congratulations goes out to Chris, Wanda, Trace and Cade.”

“This is one of the happiest days of my life,” Woods said. “It’s an honor to serve my alma mater and a dream come true. I would like to thank my family who stuck with me through the process. I also would like to thank John Cohen and (President) Mark Keenum for this wonderful opportunity. I love Mississippi State. It’s important that every day, we put our best foot forward always in the best interest of Mississippi State. My vision for Mississippi State track and field is for us to climb even further heights with the focus on winning championships.”

In addition, throws coach April Thomas has been promoted to associate head coach. The leader of “JavU,” Thomas’ squad swept the men’s javelin podium at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships, marking the first time since 1964 that a school had achieved the feat. Thomas was tabbed USTFCCCA South Region Men's Assistant Coach of the Year last month.

Woods had served as the interim head coach since Sept. 20, 2018, after five seasons as a sprinters and relays coach for both the MSU men and women. With its 11th-place and 24-point showing at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships, State secured its third-highest point total in program history and second-best mark since 1982. Woods helped guide the men and women to a combined seven All-America honors this outdoor season.

MSU's men put together the most-decorated outdoor season in program history, claiming more SEC Athletes of the Week and USTFCCCA National Athletes of the Week than ever before along with four All-America accolades.

The Bulldogs put six men on the podium at the SEC Championships, the most since State earned eight medals in 2003. They finished the conference meet with 57 points, their highest total since 2012. MSU's eighth-place SEC Outdoors finish was its best since 2015. Woods spearheaded the Bulldogs to nine medals, representing their most since 2003.

In addition, a total of 28 men and women athletes qualified for the NCAA East Prelims, which was a program record. The Bulldog men broke two school records, including the oldest, untied, Championship-event record in the program's record book.

The highlight of the 2019 outdoor season came when The Bowerman semifinalist Anderson Peters led an MSU javelin sweep of the podium. Peters successfully defended his national title, becoming the first MSU athlete to claim consecutive national championships. He threw a personal-best 86.62m (284-2), breaking his own school, meet and national records. Peters landed three attempts beyond 84.00m and threw six collegiate all-time top-10 marks this year alone.

State's trio of Peters, Curtis Thompson and Tyriq Horsford was just the 11th sweep of any event podium in NCAA history. Stephen Jones broke Simeon Kigen's steeplechase record that had stood since 1982 by one second. In all, nine new marks landed in the men's all-time top five this year.

On the women’s side, Tiffany Flynn and Logan Boss both earned All-America status to close their storied careers earlier this month. Flynn finished eighth in the triple jump with a leap of 13.32m (43-8.5), while Boss tied for 12th in the high jump, clearing 1.78m (5-10.0). The 2019 outdoor season saw four women's school records fall along with two freshmen records. The Bulldogs added 14 new marks to the program's all-time outdoor top five.

In his time as an assistant, Woods coached Bulldog athletes to 17 All-American selections and two SEC championships. His student-athletes hold 40 times in the MSU record books. In 2018 alone, Woods' athletes put 15 new marks among the top five in MSU history.

Four of the top five times in both the men's and women's indoor 4x400m relay came under his watch. In the men's indoor 800m, the only time among the top five that he did not coach is his own set in 2008, which is still the fourth-fastest in school history.

In 2018, he led Ro'Derick Spears to a school-record 13.65 in the outdoor 110m hurdles. Spears also joined Herbert Wise III, Willie-Lionel Reed and Charles Brockman III to break the school record in the outdoor shuttle hurdle relay twice that year. He also coached the 400m leg of the women's indoor distance medley relay that set the MSU record in 2017 and the women's indoor 4x400m relay team that broke that record in 2015.

Woods competed as a Middle Distance athlete for the Maroon and White from 2005-08. As a student-athlete, Woods garnered two-time All-America honors and four-time All-SEC accolades.

Before coming to MSU, Woods served as head coach for the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

Prior to his time with Claflin, Woods was instrumental in the success of Abilene Christian University’s track and field program as the men’s and women’s long sprints, middle and long distance coach. Under his direction at Abilene Christian, Woods aided his team to back-to-back NCAA Division II National Championships in men’s track and field.

In 2011, Woods coached five runners who garnered multiple honors. Desmond Jackson claimed five All-America honors, Amos Sang claimed four All-America accolades, while Jordan Geary, Partis Rovertson and Lavance Williams each claimed All-America honors under Woods’ direction.

In 2010, Woods coached nine All-America athletes, including multiple All-America honorees Desmond Jackson, James Hardin and Amos Sang.

A native of Covington, Georgia, Woods graduated from MSU in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in clinical exercise physiology. Woods is married to former two-time Olympian Wanda Hutson. The couple has two sons, Trace and Cade.

What They Are Saying …

“Mississippi State got it right. Chris is a son of the soil. He’s a Mississippi State Bulldog true and true. He will carry the banner of his alma mater to high heights. He will do it the right way and work hard to see Mississippi State continue at the level at which they’re doing it and reach beyond to even greater.”
- Lonnie Greene, Kentucky Head Coach

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