MARQUETTE - For 11 years, Los Angeles native Cheree Hicks has been an assistant track and field coach at the NCAA Division I level.
Now, the University of Miami assistant of the past seven seasons is getting a shot to run her own program - at Northern Michigan University.
Wildcat athletic director Forrest Karr announced the hiring of Hicks on Thursday as the next head coach of its women's track and field program, replacing Tom Barnes after he retired in August.
Hicks said she is excited to begin work at NMU on Oct. 8 after meeting with the staff and student-athletes during her interview last week.
"I'm very thankful that Forrest Karr and the rest of the administration and the search committee had enough confidence in me to build upon what Tom Barnes did," Hicks said. "He did a great job there and I'm excited to be following his tradition and helping the program build even more."
Karr said Hicks' background in the throwing events such as shot put and discus will complement the current group of assistants' skill sets well.
Jenny Ryan, who is also the head cross country coach, has served as the interim coach since Barnes stepped down. Her expertise is in the middle and distance runs. Kevin Kean currently works with the Wildcat sprinters, jumpers, hurdlers and relay teams. Both will remain on the staff to aid Hicks this season.
"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."
As an assistant coach at Miami, Hicks has overseen the throwers and coached an athlete 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 an assistant 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 California State Northridge.
Now she inherits a team that had three Division II indoor and outdoor All-Americans last year, though only sophomore pole vaulter Jamie Roberts of Iron Mountain returns in 2012-13.
The team was ranked as high as No. 14 in the nation during the indoor season and took 20th at the NCAA outdoor championships, the best finish ever for an NMU team.
"There is so much potential for NMU's program," Hicks said. "The team is ready to go and ready to get the new head coach in place.
"They are ready to work hard, they want to have a good season and want to do very well, represent the school at the conference level and at the NCAA level. I got a very good vibe from the team. They are really ready to just take the team to another level as a whole."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.