John Smith, a seven-time Northwest Conference Track and Field and seven-time NCAA Division III West Region Track and Field Coach of the Year, enters his 11th season as the head coach of the men’s and women’s track and field programs at George Fox University, his alma mater, in 2017-18, continuing a rich history of success forged by longtime coaches Rich Allen (1969-1987) and Wes Cook (1987-2006) before him.
Smith was honored as NWC Co-Coach of the Year in 2010 when he guided the Bruin women to a narrow second-place finish in the NWC Championships behind Willamette University, which won its ninth conference title in a row. The Bruins ended the Willamette string in 2011 in winning the conference crown by 75 points, the second-largest margin in league history, and added titles in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In all four seasons, Smith was named the NWC Coach of the Year.
The United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association named Smith the West Region Women’s Coach of the Year for the Bruins’ dramatic improvement, climbing to third in the NWC, in 2009. The honor was repeated in 2010 when the Bruins finished a close second to Willamette, and again in 2012 as the Bruins won the second of four straight conference championships.
During his 10 years as head coach, Smith has produced 10 NCAA All-American men and 15 All-American women, including four national champions (Joel Krebs, 2007 men’s javelin; Irene Johnson, 2011 women’s 100 hurdles; Alexis Arnold, 2012 women’s heptathlon; and Beth Stam, 2013 women’s javelin). The Bruins have had 21 men and 43 women participate in the NCAA Championships during his tenure. Ben Dillow was named the USTFCCCA West Region Men’s Athlete of the Year in 2008, Beth Stam was the West Region Women’s Field Athlete of the Year in both 2010 and 2013, and Emily Wyatt won both the West Region Women’s Indoor Track and Indoor Field Athlete of the Year awards in 2013.
Under Smith’s leadership, George Fox men have earned 104 All-Conference honors and 22 NWC championships, while Bruin women have garnered 185 All-NWC awards and have won 45 NWC events. Irene Johnson was named the Women’s Track Co-Athlete of the NWC Championships Meet in 2010, Nate Dillow the Men’s Field Athlete of the Meet in 2011, Beth Stam the Women’s Field Athlete of the Meet in 2011 and 2013, and Alyssa Turner the Women’s Track Athlete of the Meet in 2012. Charity Arn was named Women's Field Athlete of the Meet in 2014 and again in 2015. Rachael Kraske was named Women's Track Athlete of the Meet in 2015.
Smith also served as the head coach of the George Fox men’s and women’s cross country programs for six seasons before turning over the reins of those programs to Randy Dalzell, a multi-honored coach at Cascade College, Northwest Nazarene University and Concordia University-Portland. Dalzell was an assistant coach at George Fox for two years while Smith was a student-athlete, and Smith served as an assistant under Dalzell for a year at Cascade in 1997.
A native of Lakeside, Ore., Smith was a football and track athlete at North Bend (Ore.) High School, earning all-state and district honors in both sports and setting a school record in the triple jump. Coming to George Fox in 1992, he changed his focus from the jumps to the challenges of the decathlon. He was a national qualifier in the decathlon three times and twice in the pole vault, claiming NAIA All-America status in the decathlon in both 1994 and 1995. At the time of graduation, he held top-10 marks in eight events at George Fox, including a school record in the decathlon (7,138 points) during his junior year which still stands.
After completing his bachelor’s degree in health and human performance (fitness management emphasis) in 1996, Smith continued to compete and earned a U.S. national ranking in the decathlon. While competing for Oregon International, he won the University of Oregon Invitational and took second at the Rocky Mountain Invitational in the decathlon before a career-ending injury sidelined him from the sport. Realizing that his true dedication to the sport would best be served coaching and mentoring athletes, he began coaching the jumps and multi-events and worked to earn a master’s degree in sport science, which he completed in 2003.
Returning to George Fox as an assistant coach in 1998, Smith worked primarily with the Bruins’ jumps, javelin, and multi-event athletes. Under his tutelage, the Bruins had the NCAA Division III national runner-up in the decathlon (Ben Dillow) and the women’s high jump (Michelle Forbes) in 2005. The team followed that up with three All-American decathletes (Seth Harris, fifth; Josh Priester, seventh; and Ryan Forbes, eighth) in 2006. The jumps group earned multiple Northwest Conference championships in the long jump (six), triple jump (six), and high jump (three). Smith had 31 NCAA Division III national meet qualifiers, three national runner-ups, and 12 All-Americans during his stint as an assistant.
“The success of our program is a true testament to the athletes we have,” says Smith. “I am continually amazed at the level of dedication and work the athletes are willing to put in to reach that next level. The team is also very Christ-centered and provides a family-like atmosphere that breeds success. We work hard and have fun doing it. It is truly a blessing to be able to coach athletes in this program, and I enjoy every minute of it.”
Smith is also quick to credit his assistants as a major reason for the programs’ continued success, saying, “I believe that my staff will be the reason this program will continue to uphold the Bruin track and field tradition. I am confident that they could coach at any level, and they have the knowledge to help us become a nationally recognized team.”
Four of Smith’s assistants have been honored with USTFCCCA Assistant's Coach of the Year awards: Michelle Forbes in 2012 for women's outdoor track and Doug in 2013 for both women's indoor and outdoor track. Randy Dalzell in 2015 for men's indoor track and Adam Haldorson in 2015 for women's indoor track.
Smith resides in Newberg, Ore., and is married to former Bruin track and cross country All-American Dawn Hartwig, also a 1996 George Fox graduate. John and Dawn have three children, Davis (17), Jaci (15), and Blake (13). In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family and pursuing his hobby of surfing and building surfboards.
2009 USTFCCCA NCAA Division III West Region Women's Track and Field Coach of the Year
2010 Northwest Conference Women's Track and Field Co-Coach of the Year
2010 USTFCCCA NCAA Division III West Region Women's Track and Field Coach of the Year
2011 Northwest Conference Women's Track and Field Coach of the Year
2012 Northwest Conference Women's Track and Field Coach of the Year
2012 USTFCCCA NCAA Division III West Region Women's Track and Field Coach of the Year
2013 USTFCCCA NCAA Division III West Region Women's Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year
2013 Northwest Conference Women's Track and Field Coach of the Year
2014 USTFCCCA NCAA Division III West Region Women's Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year
2014 Northwest Conference Women's Track and Field Coach of the Year
2015 USTFCCCA NCAA Division III West Region Men's and Women's Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year