Utah State head coach Gregg Gensel announced Wednesday that former Idaho Vandal Andrew Blaser and former USU Aggie Steve Strickland will be new track and field assistant coaches.
Blaser and Strickland will replace Joel Johnson, who left USU to take a full-time position in rehabilitative counseling. Blaser will work primarily with the pole vaulters and multi-event athletes and will assist the hurdlers. Strickland will assist Gensel with the administration duties for the team and will help coach the distance runners.
"Andrew is a great addition to our staff. He has a lot of knowledge for someone just out of college, especially with his background in the multi-events," Gensel said. "I like that he is a student of the sport; he studies and knows what is out there and what is good for technique. He also brings a love and enthusiasm for the sport that will help motivate and help the athletes want to get better and achieve great things. With Steve, I hired him because of his love of the sport and his enthusiasm as well as the fact that he had an outstanding career here for us at USU. He is very familiar with our program, so it makes for an easy transition and I think he will do well as a coach and as a recruiter."
Blaser was named the Outstanding Field Performer at both the Western Athletic Conference Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Championships in 2012. He was also the high point award honoree at both championships, while also being named the co-winner of the WAC 2012 Joe Kearney Award. He won five of his six career WAC individual titles in 2012, including the 60-meter hurdles, high jump and heptathlon at the indoor meet and the 110-meter hurdles and defended his title in the decathlon at the outdoor meet. His performance helped Idaho to a sweep of the two championships. Blaser finished his career with a program-best 17 all-WAC honors in the two sports.
"It is really cool for me to come to a school where I know the athletes and coaches," Blaser said. "I know how they coach and what to expect as far as the winning tradition that is here at Utah State. I am comfortable with the environment and I know what the athletes and coaches here are capable of and I feel that I can contribute adequately to help this program get from A to B. I feel that I bring a diverse background from a different but similar coaching staff at Idaho. I competed in 11 to 12 events through college and I know I can help in those events and keep on par with the winning tradition here."
Strickland, who has spent the last two years getting his master's degree in Spanish literature at the University of Kansas, won eight individual WAC titles during his career as an Aggie, which includes the 3,000m steeplechase titles at the WAC Outdoor Championships in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Strickland also won the 5,000m run at the 2009 WAC Indoor and Outdoor Championships, as well as capturing the 3,000m title at the 2008 Indoor Championships and titles in the mile run and distance medley relay at the 2010 Indoor Championships. Additionally, Strickland holds the school-record in the 3,000m steeplechase with a time of 8:42.71, while also ranking third in school history in the indoor 3,000m (8:10.67) and fifth in the indoor distance medley (9:59.09). In 2009, Strickland finished 24th in the 3,000m steeplechase at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.
"For me it is a chance to give back to the university that gave me so much and helped me reach such a high level while I was competing and studying at college," Strickland said. "This has been something that I have wanted to do in the back of my mind, even while I was here at Utah State and I really think it has the potential of being something great for me. This opens a lot of doors and I would be very interested in having a career in coaching but only time will tell. I am just excited to be here."
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.