Earlier today, the University of Texas announced that Sarah Haveman will be joining the Longhorns' as the team's next head women's distance coach. The former Illinois distance coach is replacing former women's distance coach, Patti Sue Plummer, who parted ways with Texas earlier this summer, per multiple sources.
Haveman, who has overseen the Fighting Illini' distance program since 2017, was responsible for helping the Illinois women evolve into a nationally competitive cross country squad in recent years.
In the fall of 2017, the first season under Haveman, the Illinois women placed an abysmal 24th place at the Midwest Regional XC Championships. But just one year later, the Fighting Illini' jumped all the way to 4th place.
During the 2019 cross country season, the Illinois women had one of their best seasons of all-time. The Urbana-Champaign-based program secured the Midwest regional team title and later ventured to the national stage where they finished 22nd overall.
At the 2021 NCAA Winter XC Championships, the Illinois women returned to the national meet, this time placing 21st. The Fighting Illini' have not made it back to the cross country national meet since then.
Haveman has also been responsible for developing Olivia Howell, a middle distance star who has recently entered the transfer portal. Howell has run marks of 2:02 (800), 4:09 (1500) and 4:33 (mile) during her time in the midwest. She has earned three All-American honors, including an upset indoor national title victory over Lauren Gregory in the mile this past winter.
Howell has also (briefly) emerged as top-50 runner in The Stride Report's individual cross country rankings during the fall of 2022. She is expected to hold one full year of eligibility as she ventures elsewhere as a graduate transfer.
The Longhorns' newest women's distance coach has also been a highly effective recruiter. Coach Sarah Haveman was responsible for assembling a group of distance recruits in 2021 which was ranked at TSR #8 among the NCAA's best women's freshmen distance running classes.
It should also be noted that Jonathan Davis thrived under Coach Sarah Haveman, specifically in the latter portion of his collegiate career. The three-time All-American ended his time in the NCAA with personal bests of 1:48 (800), 3:36 (1500), 3:54 (mile), 7:49 (3k) and 13:49 (5k).
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Admittedly, the Texas women have struggled to stay competitive in the longer distance events over the last few years. Despite qualifying for multiple cross country national meets as a team, the Longhorns have fell to the bottom of the results at the NCAA XC Championships on a handful of occasions.
Last fall, the Texas women finished last at the national meet with a team score of 983 points, a margin of 269 points behind the second-to-last team in the final standings. The year before that, the Texas women did not advance to the national stage at all. Instead, the Rice women overtook the Longhorns for the second automatic national qualifying spot in the South Central region.
In the fall of 2019, the Texas women finished 30th out of 31 teams at the NCAA XC Championships. In 2018 and 2017, they finished last on both occasions.
Much like she did with the Illinois women, Coach Sarah Haveman will look to remodel the women's distance roster at Texas and develop that group into a team that will be more effective on the grass.
Not only that, but the departure of Haveman from Illinois to Texas does create an incentive for Olivia Howell to finish her graduate work in Austin, Texas while staying with the coach who helped her become a true collegiate star.