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UND's longest-tenured coach to retire

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Dick Clay2 / 2

UND cross country coach Dick Clay, the longest-tenured head coach in the history of UND Athletics, announced on Tuesday his intention to retire at the end of the 2018-19 academic year.

Clay, who also serves as associate head coach of UND’s track and field program, is entering his 34th season at the helm of UND’s women’s cross country program in 2018-19, giving him the longest single-sport tenure of any coach in school history. Clay added men’s cross country head coaching duties in 2011-12 following the retirement of longtime men’s coach Mike Grandall. He also served as head women’s track and field coach from 1985 to 2011.

During his tenure, Clay has coached more than 80 individual all-America performers since arriving in Grand Forks while four of his former student-athletes and two of his teams have been inducted into the UND Athletics Letterwinners Association Hall of Fame.

“This decision was not easy,” said Clay. “It’s the right thing for me, but that doesn’t make it any easier, especially now that the season has started. My focus this year remains on coaching our student-athletes and the program. As time goes by, I’ll have the chance to reflect on the years I’ve been here. That will come in time and I have a year to do that.”

Clay will guide his program into its first year of membership in The Summit League in 2018-19, a transition that will reunite North Dakota with former North Central Conference rivals such as North Dakota State, South Dakota and South Dakota State.

Clay was named head coach of UND’s women’s track and field and cross country programs prior to the 1985-86 season and immediately set about transforming both teams into elite NCAA Division II programs. Under Clay’s leadership, North Dakota advanced to the NCAA DII Cross Country Championship 12 times and finished fifth or better on seven occasions, including a national runner-up showing in 2000. UND also captured five NCC titles and a 1994 regional championship in cross country at the DII level under Clay.

In track and field, Clay ushered the then-Fighting Sioux to consecutive top-six national finishes and 1993 and 1994 at the NCAA DII Indoor Championships. He also mentored Heidi Evans (outdoor 1,500 meters) and Marie Crep (indoor 800 meters) to individual national championships in 2008 and 1994, respectively.

Clay’s successes at the DII level were crystalized by his myriad coaching honors. He was recognized at the national level in 2000 when he was named NCAA DII Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year while earning regional coach of the year accolades that same season. Clay was also the NCAA North Central Region Cross Country Coach of the Year three times (1999, 1994, 1991).