MARQUETTE - Northern Michigan University has hired University of Miami assistant Cheree Hicks as the next head coach of its women's track and field program, athletic director Forrest Karr announced Thursday afternoon.
In a release from the university, Hicks said she is excited to begin work at NMU on Oct. 8 after her meeting with the staff and student-athletes during her interview last week.
"There is so much potential for NMU's program," Hicks said. "It's a young program so we'll have to get out recruiting in Michigan and Wisconsin, and through my contacts to get the word out that NMU is a great place for track and field."
Hicks was one of three finalists brought in for interviews this month. She replaces interim head track and field coach Jenny Ryan, who took over from Tom Barnes when he retired in August. Ryan, who is also the head cross country coach, will remain on the staff as an assistant along with Kevin Kean.
Kean currently works with the Wildcat sprinters, jumpers, hurdlers and relay teams while Ryan's expertise is in the middle and long distance runs. Hicks' specialty is the throwing events after earning All-American status at California State Northridge and Syracuse.
"Cheree has a strong educational background," Karr said. "She has accomplished many things in track and field, both as a student-athlete and as a coach. Her areas of expertise complement the strengths of our current staff and will help move the program forward."
Hicks has coached the past seven seasons at Miami and before that, spent three years as an assistant at Syracuse and a season as an assistant at Portland State University in Oregon.
After 11 years as an assistant at the NCAA Division I level, Hicks said last week during her visit to Marquette she is prepared to become a head coach. She credits her mentor at Miami, Director of Men's and Women's Track and Field/Cross Country Amy Deem, for teaching her how to manage people and manage a team.
Deem was also the head women's coach for Team USA at the Olympic Games in London, and coaches like her did more than just let Hicks handle the throwers. Hicks has worked on fundraising efforts, community service projects, budgeting, travel plans and team banquets.
When it comes to building a complete track and field program, Hicks wants to do more than just coach a strong group of throwers like she has done at PSU, Syracuse, Miami and even at the Olympic and Paralympic level.
Hicks wants to build a strong all-around team that can contend in the GLIAC and nationally in Div. II.
"As a head coach, I want to make sure all the other event groups are covered as well," Hicks said. "My goal is to have at least one big hitter in each group. From there, have the assisting ensemble. We try to at least do that, but I want to make sure every event is covered."
As an assistant coach at Miami, Hicks has coached a thrower to the NCAA national championship meet in four of her seven years. She also coached Miami's first All-American in the discus.
During her three years as a coach at Syracuse, Hicks guided throwers to eight individual Big East titles, 17 all-conference honors and five school records. Her top athlete was All-American Johvonne Hernandez, who set a 2004 Big East record in the hammer throw.
As an athlete at Syracuse, Hicks finished second in the shot put at the 2000 NCAA indoor championship meet and was runner up in both the shot and discus at the NCAA outdoor championships. She also placed fifth in the shot in the Olympic trials that year.
Prior to transferring to Syracuse, Hicks was an All-American and academic All-American at Cal State Northridge.
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.