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NEWS: Willis Signs New Balance NIL Deal, Portland St. Hire Falls Through & Georgia XC Role Opens Up

Another day, another set of headlines that deserve some attention! Here are a few key pieces of news from around the NCAA that we collected over the last week...


🚨 The Group Chat: 2023 Free Agency (Part One) 🚨

🚨 The Group Chat: 2023 Free Agency (Part Two) 🚨

🚨 Olivia Howell Enters Transfer Portal 🚨

🚨 Amelia Mazza-Downie Transfers to Florida 🚨

🚨 Elise Thorner Transfers to Florida 🚨

🚨 Charles Hicks Goes Pro, Signs With Nike 🚨

🚨 New Mexico Hires Darren Gauson 🚨


Dylan Jacobs Expected to Announce Pro Contract Signing in Near Future, Sponsor Has Been Selected

Earlier today, Tennessee superstar Dylan Jacobs made an announcement via Instagram which alluded to his eventual (and upcoming) departure from the NCAA. According to multiple sources, Jacobs is expected to turn pro. TSR is aware of who Jacobs' future sponsor will be, although reporting rights have not yet been granted.

Jacobs, a former high school standout, has fully delivered on his potential in the NCAA -- and then some. The collegiate distance running veteran is expected to end his academic career with personal bests of 3:57 (mile), 7:36 (3k), 13:11 (5k) and 28:01 (10k).

In total, he has amassed seven individual All-American honors, eight including the DMR. Among those All-American honors, Jacobs has also secured national titles over 10,000 meters, the indoor 5000 meters and the DMR.

Roisin Willis Signs NIL Deal With New Balance

Earlier this week, rising Stanford sophomore Roisin Willis announced via Instagram that she has signed a "Name, Image and Likeness" (NIL) deal with New Balance.

She now joins Parker Valby (Nike), Katelyn Tuohy (Adidas), Evan Bishop (Brooks) and formerly Charles Hicks (Nike), the latter of whom recently went pro, as collegiate distance runners with NIL deals from major shoe companies.

Willis, a middle distance high school phenom, had an incredible first year at Stanford. The Cardinal underclassman posted times of 1:59.93 (800) and 4:13 (1500) on the oval, the former of which was run at altitude.

The Wisconsin native won the indoor 800 meter national title this past winter over teammate Juliette Whittaker. She was also a key member of Stanford's DMR lineup which won the indoor national title that same weekend. Willis would go on to finish 4th over 800 meters at the outdoor national meet back in June.

The middle distance superstar, who won the 2022 World U20 title over 800 meters in 1:59.13 prior to joining the Stanford women, recently came forward, publicly, about her personal struggles that she experienced in her first year in the NCAA.

Willis' NIL deal with New Balance, in theory, likely improves the chances of the 18-year old standout staying the NCAA, at least for the next year, rather than immediately taking a pro contract.

It should be noted, however, that Willis' teammate on the men's side of Stanford's roster, Charles Hicks, signed an NIL deal with Nike back March before fully accepting a pro contract with the brand last week.

Jack Mullaney Withdraws From Portland State Coaching Role After Originally Accepting Job

In June, Portland State announced that they would not renew the contract of former head coach, David Hepburn. The parting of ways stems from an eligibility issue this past spring which left Jordan MacIntosh, one of the nation's better steeplechasers in 2023, out of the West Regional Championships.

On June 30th, Jack Mullaney was named as the Vikings' newest head coach. The University of Portland assistant coach had been with the Pilots since 2017 where he played an integral role in the successful overseas and domestic recruiting of top distance runners.

However, four days later, Mullaney ultimately "reversed course", instead opting to pass on the head coaching role at Portland State with the press release citing a "change of heart". He will remain at the University of Portland.

The head coaching role at Portland State has since been reopened.

Nebraska Hires Ryun Godfrey As Next Distance Coach

Last week, the University of Nebraska announced the hiring of Ryun Godfrey as the program's newest head cross country and distance coach. The official hiring follows one year of Godrey working with the Huskers' middle distance group as a volunteer coach.

It is unclear as to where Matt Wackerly, the former distance coach at Nebraska, has ended up or if he is still with the program (and in what capacity).

Back in February, Justin St. Clair was officially named as the program's newest track and field head coach after initially holding an "interim" title.

Godfrey holds a collective total of 25 years of collegiate coaching experience. Past coaching stint includes stops at Arizona State, Kansas State and North Dakota State. Per the press release, "Godfrey has coached four athletes who have qualified for the USA Championships and Olympic Trials, including two finalists. On the world level, he was helped two collegiate athletes to World/Olympic standards in the 800m."

This past spring, Godfrey led Sam Easley to a new half-mile PR of 1:48.90 which allowed him to place 6th overall at the BIG 10 Outdoor Championships. Meanwhile, Niko Schultz posted an 800 meter personal best 1:48.67 on the indoor oval, a time that led to him placing 7th overall at the 2023 BIG 10 Indoor Championships this past winter.

Coach Michael Curcio Leaves Appalachian State For Sewanee (University of the South), "National Search" For Replacement Underway

Back in June, Appalachian State announced that Michael Curcio, a three-decade veteran head distance coach of the Mountaineers' track and field and cross country programs, was leaving the Mountaineers to become the new head coach at the University of the South (which has often been called Sewanee).

According to the press release, "Curcio's overall record in men's and women's cross country meets was 510-59, including a 179-20 mark against Sun Belt teams."

This past year, on the oval, the Mountaineers' best men's distance talent was arguably Calbert Guest who ran 8:54 in the steeplechase during the spring. On the women's side, Jasmine Donohue headlined the distance events, running times of 4:33 (1500) and 17:01 (5k).

On the grass, the men finished runner-up to Arkansas State at the 2022 Sun Belt XC Championships while the women finished 5th on the same stage.

It should be noted that Ben Thomas, the former distance coach at Virginia Tech and Oregon, has been interviewing for multiple coaching jobs in recent months, per multiple sources. However, it is unclear to The Stride Report if one of those destinations was Appalachian State.

Thomas previously coached the women's distance program at App State from 1995 to 1999 before departing for Georgia and eventually Virginia Tech.

To reiterate, The Stride Report has zero knowledge on whether or not any current communication has been made between the two parties (Thomas and App State).

Rory Leonard Not Expected to Return to Oklahoma State

On Monday, Oklahoma State's Rory Leonard announced that he will not be returning to the Cowboys' distance program in 2023.

The distance standout from Great Britain has noted that, "There’s no singular person, scenario or situation that has forced this decision, rather the realisation of where I want my career to go and what I want to achieve with people I want to be nearer to."

Leonard went on to explain that his focus has since shifted to the European Championships.

The now-departing Cowboy distance standout had a tremendous 2022-23 calendar year with the Oklahoma State men, making promising improvements under Coach Dave Smith. After running 13:52 (5k) in the spring of 2022, Leonard went on to have a fantastic fall campaign.

During the 2022 cross country season, the long distance talent placed 17th at the Cowboy Jamboree, runner-up at the BIG 12 XC Championships and 32nd at the NCAA XC Championships, earning All-American honors in the process.

Leonard would later run a fantastic time of 28:22 for 10,000 meters at the Stanford Invite earlier this year before recording three-straight DNF marks (per TFRRS) throughout the rest of the 2023 outdoor track season.

According to TFRRS, the Oklahoma State men are set to return multiple top-tier scorers and distance talents for later this fall, including Fouad Messaoudi, Alex Maier, Victor Shitsama and Ryan Schoppe. However, the Cowboys will now lose a second All-American for later this fall given the expired eligibility of low-stick ace, Isai Rodriguez.

Georgia Opens Distance Coaching Role

According to the "Job Postings" section on USTFCCCA's website, the University of Georgia has opened up a head cross country and distance coaching role. The posting was made on June 28th, 2023.

Georgia's distance coaching position has been held by Pat Henner since June of 2022. Henner is the former middle distance coach of multiple universities, including Georgetown during their streak of middle distance excellence in the late 2000s and early-to-mid 2010s.

Henner was recently responsible for developing freshman phenom Will Sumner. As a rookie, the Bulldog star ran 1:44.26 for 800 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Championships to win the national title.

Henner is not listed on Georgia's 2023 track and field roster. It is not yet clear what Henner's current coaching status is.

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