Heading up the women's sprint area is first-year member of the Tennessee staff, Heather Van Norman. The highly-regarded coach was the first newly-hired piece of the puzzle to join J.J. Clark's brain trust, doing so on July 31 after he was named the director of track & field at Tennessee in June 2009.
While Van Norman may be in her first season as an assistant coach at UT, she comes to Rocky Top with an abundance of experience in college track & field and a record of producing national-caliber athletes in the sprint area. The fact she was a head coach of both the men's and women's track and cross country programs in her previous stop will only increase her value to Clark and his staff.
For the past seven seasons, Van Norman headed up the women's track & field team at Tulane University in New Orleans, guiding the program during a tumultuous period caused by the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. In 2005, she also had to oversee the resurrection of the TU men's program after a two-year hiatus due to the effects of Katrina on the city as well as the university community.
After arriving in New Orleans in 2002, the former LSU sprint and relay standout built a foundation for her student-athletes to be successful, both in competition and in the classroom.
On the oval, Van Norman's past prowess as an All-American and SEC champion sprinter served her well as a coach, especially with her female sprinters, who made names for themselves at the NCAA level. Among her most noteworthy sprint pupils were former All-American Gloria Asumnu, whose brother Stanley played basketball at Tennessee, as well as Valencia Wilson and Olivia Kizzee. As a junior in 2009, Kizzee made the NCAA Outdoor semifinals in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and was in contention for a trip to the World Championships for her parents' native country of Nigeria.
In her seven seasons in "The Big Easy," Van Norman oversaw 16 NCAA Championship meet appearances, including one All-American, and 44 entries into the NCAA Mideast Regional field. Tulane student-athletes also earned all-conference recognition 144 times and won 14 league championships in various events.
Asumnu, meanwhile, was one of two Green Wave athletes to be named Conference USA Track & Field Freshman of the Year under Van Norman's tenure, winning the honor indoors in 2004. Wilson garnered outdoor acclaim in 2006.
Academically, more than 70 of her charges were selected to the Conference USA Academic Honor Roll, while Helmi Leppanen attained ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District status and Brianne Darragh earned a Conference USA Postgraduate Scholarship during her career.
Prior to her stint at Tulane, Van Norman served four years as an assistant at Georgia Tech and prior to that had a two-year stop at Rice. At Tech, she handled sprints, relays and long hurdles and saw seven of her individuals and one of her relay teams earn All-America accolades. Her tenure at Rice was highlighted by her 4x400m relay team winning the 1997 NCAA Indoor Championship.
A 1994 graduate of LSU who nearly signed with Tennessee out of high school, Van Norman was a six-time All-American for the Tigers. She won three national championships in 1993, doing so as a member of the indoor 4x400m relay team as well as the outdoor 4x100m and 4x400m tandems. She was instrumental in LSU's run of titles during that time, helping the Bayou Bengals claim three-straight NCAA Outdoor crowns from 1991 to 1993, a pair of NCAA Indoor trophies in 1991 and 1993, and SEC Indoor and Outdoor crowns in 1993 and 1995.
In 1991, Van Norman was a member of LSU's American-record-setting 4x200m relay. A year later, she won the 1992 SEC Indoor title in the 400m and competed in that event at the U.S. Olympic Trials in New Orleans.
A USATF level 1 and 2 instructor certified for sprints, jumps, hurdles and relays, Van Norman began her collegiate career at the University of Minnesota, where she was named Freshman Track Athlete of the Year. The Gopher State native is a charter member of the Windom High School Hall of Fame and is active with the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, serving on the USTFCCCA's executive committee for five years and as its current secretary.
VAN NORMAN'S HIGHLIGHTS
- Came to Tennessee after seven seasons at Tulane University, where she served as head coach of the men's and women's track & field and cross country programs
- Produced 16 NCAA Championship meet appearances, 44 NCAA Mideast Regional entries and an All-American at Tulane
- Her student-athletes at TU earned all-conference honors 144 times and won 14 league championships in various events
- Tutored two Conference USA Freshmen of the Year during her tenure at Tulane
- Academically, more than 70 of her charges were selected to the Conference USA Academic Honor Roll
- She had one athlete earn ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District accolades and another garner a Conference USA Post-Graduate Scholarship during her time at Tulane
- During a career stop as an assistant at Georgia Tech, she saw seven of her individuals and one relay secure All-America distinction.
- Her stint as an assistant at Rice was highlighted by her 4x400m relay team winning the 1997 NCAA Indoor Championship
- Six-time All-American sprinter at LSU, winning a trio of NCAA titles in 1993 on the indoor 4x400m relay team as well as with the outdoor 4x100m and 4x400m tandems
- Bayou Bengals claimed five NCAA team trophies during her time in Baton Rouge and four SEC titles