Northwestern to add women's track & field

January 26, 2018

After a 30-plus year absence from campus, Northwestern Oklahoma State University will bring back women's track and field as part of its intercollegiate athletic program. The first season of competition will come in the spring of 2019.

Brad Franz, director of athletics, announced that current cross country coach Jill Lancaster, who has experienced extensive success as a collegiate track and field coach, will lead the team.

"Northwestern is excited about the opportunity to expand our varsity collegiate offerings for women through the addition of track and field," Dr. Janet Cunningham, university president, said. "High school track and field has been a popular high school sports offering in northwest Oklahoma and southern Kansas for years. Adding the sport at Northwestern will allow us to provide additional opportunities for area student-athletes to compete at the NCAA level."

The addition of track and field will increase to 12 the number of Division II sports offered at Northwestern and will be the seventh women's varsity sport. It is the first sport to be added at the school since becoming full members of the NCAA, the last being volleyball in 2012. Northwestern previously offered women's track from the 1960s to the early 1980s.

Northwestern will partner with the Alva Public Schools for use of their track as a training venue for the Rangers.

Franz echoed the sentiments of Cunningham on the addition of the team.

"Northwestern and the athletic department are very excited about the addition of women's track and field and for the opportunity for student-athletes from around the state and beyond to participate in the sport," Franz said. "We feel like it is a good fit for our athletic department, meets the strategic goals of the university, and enhances our presence in the Great American Conference and our region.

"We have an excellent coach to lead the way in Jill Lancaster. She's highly respected around the country for her track and field success. We couldn't be more excited about her and what she will bring to the program. I know that she and her team will have tremendous success."

Lancaster is finishing up her first year of coaching at Northwestern in which her cross country teams made impressive improvement as the season progressed. She is thrilled about the opportunity to coach a women's track and field team again.

"I am excited for Northwestern, our community, and our current and future Rangers for the opportunities that lie ahead with the addition of women's track and field," Lancaster stated. "The vision of Dr. Cunningham and Brad Franz, and their supporting casts, has laid the groundwork for the emergence of a sport that attracts such a variety of athletic talent. The availability of resources within the university and community will allow the program to grow quickly. I am an Oklahoma product who enjoyed such athletic vision years ago and look forward to being a part of offering the same to those in the area, state and beyond."

Before becoming the head cross country coach at Northwestern, Lancaster led the Division I program at Troy University from 2008 to 2014.

Prior to her position at Troy, Lancaster was the co-head men's and women's coach at the University of Oklahoma from 1997 to 2005. Her first head coaching position came in 1988 when she held the position at Toledo University. She also served as an assistant coach at both the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.

Lancaster has coached several athletes throughout her Division I career who have advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. During her tenure at Oklahoma, she assisted in coaching numerous Division I All-Americans as well as leading the Sooners to a fourth-place finish at the 2004 NCAA Midwest Regional, which stood at the time as the highest finish at the event in program history.

In addition to her success as a collegiate coach, Lancaster coached two Olympic trial qualifiers in the 100 meter, 200 meter and long jump competitions. She has also had a hand in developing multiple individuals who have qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

A ground-breaking athlete in Oklahoma, Lancaster was a three-time AIAW Division 1-A All-American Selection in the 600 meter dash, mile and two-mile relays at OU. Lancaster still holds the all-time school record for the outdoor 400 meter hurdles with a time of 59.03.

Following her collegiate career for the Sooners, Lancaster placed 14th at the 1988 United States Olympic Trials in the heptathalon. In 2009 she was named as one of the Top 10 Female Athletes of the Century by the Drake Relays. She was also inducted into the Drake Relays Hall of Fame in 1988/.

Lancaster holds a Level II track and field coaches certification in endurance as well as a Level II certification in jumps.

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