A two-time U.S. Olympian and one of the most decorated female student-athletes in the history of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Sharon Couch-Fikes is in her third season at the University of Tennessee. Fikes joined J.J. Clark's staff on Oct. 27, 2010, and is directing her attention and energy toward serving as assistant track & field coach for women's sprints and hurdles at Rocky Top.
Couch-Fikes helped Ellen Wortham conclude her UT career on a high note, dominating the women's 400m hurdles at the SEC Outdoor Championships to become a repeat-winner and break a 28-year-old school record. Wortham carded a readout of 55.55 seconds in the event, winning by over a second, to enable her to replace 12-time All-American and 1984 Olympian Sharrieffa Barksdale (55.58) as the Lady Vol record holder. Wortham, an 11-time All-American herself, finished third at the NCAA meet. Wortham was also part of the UT sprint medley relay that claimed the Lady Vols their 20th baton-event title at the Penn Relays in 2012. The group, which was honored by Accusplit as the top women's SMR in the nation last season, crossed the line in 3:43.79 - a mark that ranks third in school history.
Under Coach-Fikes, Lady Vols Ashley Harris, Kia Jackson, Brittany Jones and Martinique Octave all garnered Second Team USTFCCCA All-American honors in the 4x100m relay in 2012. In addition, Wortham, Octave, Nijgia Snapp and Kianna Ruff earned the same honor in the 4x400mR, while Jones added the accolade in the 200m.
The 2011 campaign saw Couch-Fikes make an immediate impact for the Big Orange, as she continued the development of Wortham and helped the junior become UT's first SEC 400m hurdles champ since Tonya Lee in 1992 as well as a third-place finisher in the pentathlon. Wortham carded a seventh-place effort in the 400m hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor meet and was part of the Lady Vols' seventh-place 4x400m relay outcome at that meet.
The NCAA relay effort in 2011 helped Couch-Fikes produce a total of four first-team All-Americans outdoors in her first season, including Wortham (400mH, 4x400mR) and the other three relay legs: Octave, Snapp and Ruff. That group also carded fifth at SEC Indoors and placed seventh outdoors with Chanelle Price running in place of Snapp. She also had the 4x100m relay unit of Harris, Wortham, Octave and Jackson check in sixth at SEC Outdoors and garner Honorable Mention All-America kudos at the NCAA Outdoor meet with Jones filling Wortham's leg.
A 1991 graduate of UNC with a degree in speech communications, Couch-Fikes was an All-American performer who went on to represent the United States at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, making the finals in the long jump, and at the 2000 Sydney Olympiad, advancing to the semifinals in the 100-meter hurdles.
From 1991 to 2001, the native of Rice, Va., represented adidas while competing professionally around the globe. She was a member of five U.S. World Championship Teams as a long jumper. Couch-Fikes also attained world rankings of seventh (2000) and ninth (1999) in the 100-meter hurdles. It was during that time that she became keenly aware of the school and people with whom she would one day become associated.
Couch-Fikes cites some of her earliest interactions with great women in the sport of track & field as being with those from the University of Tennessee. Dorothy Doolittle, UT's head coach from 1989-97, coached her at the 1992 Olympic Games, and Couch-Fikes credits the savvy and technical expertise of the former Lady Vol skipper with bringing out a personal-record performance during that competition.
The Tar Heel great also includes former Lady Vols LaVonna Martin Floreal, with whom she was a member of the 1992 Olympic Team, as well as Benita Fitzgerald-Mosley, Sharrieffa Barksdale and Joetta Clark Diggs as those who've impacted her through their success on the track and the way they've carried themselves, both during and after their competitive careers.
From 2000 to 2010, the Lady Vol aide directed Sharon Seagrave Training in Woodstock, Ga., utilizing 10-plus years of training and performance expertise to educate coaches, athletes and trainers across the country. She created and delivered skill-specific track & field clinics for state coaches associations in Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Couch-Fikes, who most recently devoted time as assistant track & field coach for The Atlanta International School, has spent a great deal of her post-competitive years employed in various corporate pursuits that utilized her high-energy personality and competitive spirit. Among her most recent positions, she was with Masai U.S. Corporation, a physiology footwear company, serving as national director of training/retail account trainer for the Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) brand from 2007 to 2009. And, in order to join the staff at UT, she departed a sales representative position with Cintas Corporation.
Focusing first on her competitive career and later on raising children, Loren (10) and Ryan (8), Couch-Fikes always felt called to enter the coaching ranks someday. The timing finally was right, and she calls "the opportunity to represent this program and build champions at UT" one of the two major defining moments of her life. The first was when she decided to pursue her Olympic dreams.
Looking back to her college days as a Tar Heel, Couch-Fikes was a four-year team captain and three-time Atlantic Coast Conference Most Valuable Performer while leading UNC to seven straight league titles. Among the events she competed in while there included the long and triple jumps, the 100-meter hurdles, the 100 and 200 meters and the 4x100m relay. She amassed all-league kudos on seven occasions and claimed seven ACC titles individually, including 55m hurdles crowns indoors in 1988, 1990 and 1991, and outdoor 100m hurdles victories in 1990 and 1991. She also won the long jump indoors in 1988 and outdoors in 1989.
A five-time All-American, she qualified for all eight NCAA Championship meets (indoors/outdoors) during her collegiate career. She was named UNC's Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was the recipient of the Patterson Gold Medal in 1991, the first African American woman and only fourth female ever to claim those honors in school history at the time. Additionally, she was president of The Monogram Club and sat on the UNC Athletic Council, representing the school's 800 student-athletes.
Prior to earning a scholarship to North Carolina, Couch-Fikes attended Amelia County High School. As a senior, she won five events and finished second in a sixth at the state championship meet, breaking four Virginia prep records. She also won the long jump and 100m hurdles at the USATF Junior Olympics and made the U.S. World Junior Team in the long jump as well.
- Coached Lady Vol Ellen Wortham to 2011 & 2012 SEC 400m hurdles title and helped her finish third in the SEC pentathlon (2011).
- Produced a total of eight All-Americans through two seasons at UT.
- Nationally qualified a 400m hurdler, 4x400m unit and a 4x100m tandem for both the 2011 and 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships as sent a 400m runner and 4x400 group indoors for Tennessee.
- Two-time U.S. Olympian, competing at the 1992 Games in the long jump and at the 2000 Olympiad in the 100-meter hurdles.
- Member of five U.S. World Championship Teams.
- Enjoyed a 10-year professional track & field career, representing adidas.
- Five-time All-American during her college days at North Carolina.
- Qualified for all eight NCAA Championship meets during her career.
- Three-time Atlantic Coast Conference Most Valuable Performer.
- Seven-time ACC champion and All-ACC performer.