Oregon track and field head coach Robert Johnson announced on Monday, July 16, the hiring of Ben Thomas as associate head coach for cross country and track and field.
Thomas, who spent the last 17 seasons as the head cross country and distance coach at Virginia Tech, will coach the middle distance and distance program for the Ducks. Throughout his tenure, Thomas successfully built the Hokies into a consistent contender both in the ACC and on the national stage.
“We are beyond thrilled to welcome Ben and his family to Eugene,” said Johnson. “Ben has transformed the distance program at Virginia Tech, and has a proven record of success in recruiting, developing and mentoring student-athletes. We believe Ben will guide our distance program to heights that honor the incredible legacy of distance running here at the University of Oregon, and help take us into an exciting new era for Oregon Track and Field.”
The 2018 Southeast Region assistant men’s coach of the year for both indoors and outdoors, Thomas led the Virginia Tech men’s distance medley team to the national indoor title while also coaching three men to the final of the mile. Most recently at the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Thomas guided Vincent Ciattei to a runner-up finish in the men’s 1,500 meters and Rachel Pocratsky to a fifth-place showing in the women’s race.
Thomas coached Virginia Tech athletes to a total of 74 NCAA all-America honors during his tenure in Blacksburg while leading the cross country and distance program to new heights.
“I am humbled to be given this awesome opportunity,” said Thomas. “I’d like to thank head coach Robert Johnson and the administration at Oregon for entrusting me with this position. I’d also like to thank my immediate family as well as my extended family of former student-athletes; without them none of this would be possible.
“I am excited to get started in helping the Men and Women of Oregon reach their considerable potential. I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to help launch a new era at Hayward Field and add to the championship legacy of Oregon track and field and cross country.”
Thomas was the national men’s assistant coach of the year in 2017, becoming the first ACC assistant coach to ever win the award, after leading seven Hokies to individual ACC titles and paving the way for the Virginia Tech men to sweep the ACC indoor and outdoor team titles. Thomas also led the women’s team to its first ACC title since 2008. In total, Thomas helped guide the Hokies to a combined 12 ACC championships throughout his 17 years.
In cross country, Thomas guided the men’s team to the 2012 ACC team title and three NCAA Championships appearances (2012, 2015, 2017), and he was the league’s coach of the year in 2012 while also coaching Will Mulherin to the individual conference title. Mulherin was the first Virginia Tech athlete to win a conference cross country title under Thomas, with Thomas Curtin claiming the second in 2015. The women’s cross country team placed third at the 2016 ACC Championships under Thomas, the best finish in program history.
“I have had a great mentor in Virginia Tech Director Dave Cianelli,” Thomas said. “I can’t thank the administration and my fellow assistants at Virginia Tech enough for their friendship and for helping me develop as a coach.”
Individually, Thomas was instrumental in the development of Hanna Green, who won three ACC titles in 2017 to help the Hokies to the conference title while also placing second in the 800 meters at both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships.
Green is a primary example of Thomas’ ability to get the most out of his student-athletes, as she was an unheralded recruit before leading the Hokies to an 11th-place finish at the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Championships, the second-best showing in program history. She became arguably the best female distance runner in school history, as she earned first-team All-America honors during the indoor and outdoor seasons in 2017 and departed as a six-time All-American.
Drew Piazza transferred to Virginia Tech from New Hampshire and became a two-time, first-team All-American in 2017 under Thomas, nearly winning the school’s first national title in distance running after finishing second in the 800 at the 2017 NCAA Indoor Championships. Thomas also helped Curtin, another unheralded recruit, to the ACC cross country title and gold medals in the 5,000 and 10,000 at the ACC Outdoor Championships. Curtin was also the 2016 NCAA Indoor runner-up in the 5,000 before placing fourth outdoors.
Prior to arriving at Virginia Tech, Thomas coached for one season as an assistant at the University of Georgia after a two-year stint as the head track and field and cross country coach at Brevard College in North Carolina. While at the helm at Brevard, Thomas coached a three-time NAIA national champion and two-time Olympian.
Thomas’ first collegiate coaching job came at Appalachian State, where he was the head women’s cross country coach and assistant track and field coach from 1995 to 1999. He coached a two-time NCAA national champion and was the 1996 Southern Conference coach of the year.
The Lynchburg, Va., native got his start in coaching E.C. Glass High School in Virginia, where he was an assistant track and field coach for two seasons (1992-94). Thomas then spent a year (1994-95) as an assistant cross country coach at Blacksburg High School in Virginia before making the move to Appalachian State.
Thomas earned his Bachelor’s degree in English from Virginia Tech in 1992. He and his wife, Ann, have three children, Reilly, Seamus and Roisin.