Aug. 9, 2011
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Director of Track & Field and Cross Country J.J. Clark announced Tuesday that he has named former elite athletes Rohsaan Griffin and Mary Jayne (Harrelson) Reeves to fill a pair of assistant coaching vacancies on his staff.
Griffin will be in charge of the men's sprints and hurdles corps, while Reeves will aid Clark with the distance runners and recruiting as Clark takes over coaching duties of both female and male student-athletes in that area after previously directing only the Lady Vols.
Serving as a volunteer assistant for UT last season, Griffin aided the staff in several areas, including men's and women's sprints. He'll focus on the Vol speed unit now and try to fortify both the individual events as well as the relay units.
"Rohsaan brings a level of skill and a passion to the sprint position that is very exciting," Clark said. "He will help us achieve the goals we have set for our program, which is to be one of the top sprint programs in the country.
"While he served as a volunteer assistant last season, it was apparent he had a good knowledge of the sprints/hurdles area and that he would work diligently to help us attain our goals. I'm excited to get him going."
Reeves, meanwhile, comes from the University of Virginia, where she served as an assistant women's track & field and cross country coach during the 2010-11 campaign, assisting the Cavaliers' middle distance and distance runners. After training with Clark as a professional runner from 2004-07, she is returning to a place with which she is quite familiar.
"I am excited to welcome Mary Jayne to our staff and back to Knoxville," Clark said. "She is not someone new to this environment. Because she trained with me three years as a post-collegiate athlete, she is familiar with my system and understands my philosophy of distance training. Mary Jayne also brings a lot to the table from a recruiting standpoint.
"She has good experience from her previous coaching and recruiting work in college settings, and I look forward to that translating to good things from her and for our program in the years to come.
"I am glad to complete our staff, and now it is time to go to work and get the Tennessee program back where it needs to be."
A 1996 graduate of LSU, and the victor in the 200 meters that season at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Griffin went on to a successful professional career in track & field. He was the 1997 and 1999 USA Indoor 200m champion and posted finishes of fourth and sixth at the World Indoor Championships those seasons. At the 1999 USA meet, he ran a time of 20.32 that was then an American indoor record.
An eight-time All-American and SEC champion as a collegian, Griffin was the winner of the SEC Indoor and Outdoor 200m titles in 1996 and won indoors as well in 1995. He also competed in the hurdles earlier in his track career, which took him from La Marque [Texas] High School (`92), to San Jacinto Junior College (`94) to LSU (`96).
Griffin previously served full-time coaching stints at East Tennessee State and Milligan College before filling a volunteer post with Tennessee in 2010-11. He also is a four-year veteran of the U.S. Army, serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom with the Army's World Class Athlete Program (WCAP).
WCAP is designed to give elite soldier-athletes an opportunity to compete in the Olympics, world and national championships in numerous sports. The program provides soldier-athletes as goodwill ambassadors for sporting events throughout the world and it helps the Army with recruiting and retention, according to Paulette Freese, WCAP manager of the Army Community and Family Support Center.
Athletes in the program, however, live by the motto "Soldiers first." For embodying that spirit, Griffin received three Army Achievement Medals and an Army Commendation Medal for meritorious service during operations in the Battle of Najaf.
"I stepped away from a full-time coaching position to come to Tennessee last year as a volunteer assistant," Griffin said. "I wanted to get involved and learn, and my experience here really gave me a lot of insight. I couldn't find a better person to learn from than Coach Clark.
"I appreciate the opportunity he has given me, and my focus will be on moving the sprint area forward and developing it back into the great unit we expect at UT. My desire is to continuing growing, learning and evolving into the great coach I hope to be."
Reeves is making her second stop in Knoxville, having trained as a professional distance runner with Clark from 2004-07. In a post-collegiate career that stretched from 2001 to 2010, she represented both Nike and Brooks and was consistently ranked among the top five female 1500m runners in the U.S.
Among her accomplishments were gold medals in the 800 and 1500m at the 2007 NACAC Championships, silver medals in the 1500m at both the 2003 and 2007 Pan Am Games and silvers in the 800m and 1500m at the 2002 U.S. Indoor Championships. She also participated in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, finishing fifth in the 1500m in 2000 and 2004.
At Virginia, while coaching women's cross country and distance runners last season, she developed two ACC champions, three regional qualifiers and three NCAA Championship qualifiers. During the campaign, there were three school records broken, two athletes made the finals of the USA Championships and her NCAA qualifiers cranked out an individual runner-up outing and a third-place relay showing at the national championship meet.
In addition to her coaching experience at UVa, Reeves was at Virginia Tech from 2001 to 2004, serving as an assistant track & field and cross country coach for the Hokie men and women. In addition to coordinating the recruitment of male and female student-athletes, she produced two All-Americans (one cross country, one track), six all-region cross country runners and three conference champions.
Between her stints in Blacksburg and Charlottesville, and while continuing her professional running career, the Timberland, N.C., native and her husband, Jon, owned and operated Reeves Tennis and Fitness, Inc., in Newnan, Ga. Among her duties were coordinating strength and conditioning for junior and adult athletes, creating women's fitness programs, directing summer camps, scheduling programming, and managing the budget and accounting for the business.
The recipient of a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Appalachian State University in 2001, Reeves was a two-time NCAA champion (1500m), six-time All-American and 26-time conference champion, including three straight titles in cross country, during her collegiate career. She was twice named the Southern Conference's Female Athlete of the Year and was the 2001 NCAA Woman of the Year in North Carolina. The Southern Conference inducted her into its hall of fame in 2010.
"I am really excited, and it's an honor to have the opportunity to work alongside J.J.," Reeves said. "He has a great plan. To be a part of a program and a culture that you know is honorable and there's integrity there - and he is doing things for the right reasons, as far as helping youth, being there for the athletes and encouraging them - that is really important to me. That's something I want to do as well.
"It won't be a big transition for me, as far as being back in Knoxville and around the university because of my previous time training with J.J. The role is different, of course, but his program, his philosophies and the way he coaches are very familiar to me, so my learning curve should be pretty easy as well. I am looking forward to joining the staff and getting to work."