A fixture at LSU for nearly two decades, first as an athlete and now as a coach, Mark Elliott begins his 20th season with the program and his eighth as an assistant head coach working with LSU’s middle distance and distance runners, as well as its cross country teams in the fall.
While coaching one of the nation’s elite groups of middle distance runners, Elliott has also proven himself as one of the premier recruiters in all of collegiate track and field while helping the Tigers and Lady Tigers assemble a world-class roster each season in their pursuit of a national championship. In particular, Elliott’s ties to the Caribbean have helped stockpile elite talent in Baton Rouge to provide the foundation for a championship program year in and year out.
Since first joining the program as a student-athlete himself in 1989 and later as a coach in 1994, the Tigers and Lady Tigers have combined to win 22 NCAA championships and 19 SEC championships as the premier combined program in all of collegiate track and field.
Charlene Lipsey has carried the torch for the Lady Tigers in the middle distance events during her collegiate career as she emerged as a national championship contender in the 800-meter run on the strength of her performance as a junior during the 2012 season.
Lipsey slashed more than one full second off of her personal record in the event in a silver-medal winning second-place finish in the 800-meter final at the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships held at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. Lipsey ran her best of 2 minutes, 1.40 seconds in the national final to earn her second All-America honor of the season in her final event of the collegiate season. She also reached All-America status indoors for the first time as a Lady Tiger by taking seventh place in the national final at the NCAA Indoor Championships a year ago.
Not only did Lipsey earn a reputation as a national title threat during her junior season, but she also became the first Lady Tiger since LaTavia Thomas in 2007 and 2008 to be crowned the SEC Indoor and SEC Outdoor champion in the 800 meters in the same season with her sweep in 2012. She even defended her home track by running 2:02.60 in the conference final to take the title at the SEC Outdoor Championships held at LSU’s Bernie Moore Track Stadium.
Lipsey finished the 2012 season within striking distance of LSU’s school record in the 800 meters as she tied as the No. 2-ranked performer outdoors at 2:01.40 and was the No. 3-ranked runner indoors at 2:03.79 on the program’s all-time performance list in the half-mile race.
Lipsey earned All-America recognition for the first time in her career as a sophomore in 2011 as she took home a fourth-place finish in the 800-meter final at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. She ran back-to-back personal bests at the national meet with runs of 2:03.96 in the semifinal and 2:03.73 in the final to highlight a breakout sophomore season.
A native of Hempstead, N.Y., who signed with the Lady Tigers as the country’s No. 1-ranked 800-meter recruit in the Class of 2009, Lipsey is sure to lead LSU’s middle distance squad again in 2013 as she is poised to continue in the championship tradition Elliott has built in the middle distance events.
The 2010 season saw the end of a brilliant career for one Lady Tiger great when Thomas hung up her spikes as a 12-time All-American in her four seasons in Baton Rouge. A native of Philadelphia, Pa., Thomas thrived with Elliott’s coaching as she wrapped up her career as the No. 2-ranked 800-meter runner in program history with PRs of 2:01.40 outdoors and 2:03.77 indoors as a leader of the Lady Tiger middle distance group.
The 2008 NCAA Indoor champion proved to be one of the nation’s best once again during her senior season while earning All-America honors during both the indoor and outdoor seasons. After taking third place in the 800-meter final at the NCAA Indoor Championships, Thomas also won a bronze medal with a third-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships to finish wrap up her collegiate career as a six-time All-America performer in the 800-meter run. She was also a six-time All-American as part of LSU’s 4×400-meter relay team during her career as a Lady Tiger.
Thomas became the fourth Lady Tiger all-time to win a national championship in the half-mile with her win at the NCAA Indoor Championships in 2008. She is the third athlete that Elliott has coached to an NCAA title in the 800 meters when she joined Lady Tiger greats Marian Burnett (2002) and Neisha Bernard-Thomas (2004) as Elliott’s national champions in the event.
Thomas was not the only LSU 800-meter runner to take the nation by storm under Elliott in 2010 as fellow senior Richard Jones picked up his second career All-America honor in the half mile with an impressive fourth-place finish in the event at the NCAA Indoor meet. He finished the year ranked among the leading performers in the NCAA by shattering personal bests with top times of 1:46.42 outdoors and 1:47.78 indoors. In fact, Jones became the new LSU indoor school record holder as his title winning time of 1:47.78 at the SEC Indoor Championships set the new standard.
Jones, who earned his first career All-America honor in 2009 with a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor meet, also became the third different LSU Tiger in four years to sweep SEC Indoor and SEC Outdoor titles in the 800 meters in 2010, joining Jamaal James (2007) and Elkana Kosgei (2008).
In addition, two other LSU seniors went out as All-Americans in 2010 as James placed sixth at the NCAA Indoor Championships and former Lady Tiger standout Kayann Thompson placed eighth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
The 2008 season was also a historic year for Elliott’s crew as he again coached three of his athletes to All-America honors. In addition to Thomas’ NCAA crown indoors and NCAA runner-up finish outdoors, Kosgei also earned a pair of All-America honors with a second-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships and a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Reuben Twijukye received All-America recognition of his own with a fifth-place finish nationally during the indoor season.
Elliott also coached LSU’s distance medley relay team to its first ever All-America honor as the squad of Michael Hendry, Armanti Hayes, James and John Kosgei placed sixth overall at the NCAA Indoor Championships after setting a school record of 9:35.31 earlier in the season.
Not only that, but John Kosgei proved to be LSU’s top distance runner in more than a decade after winning the SEC Commissioner’s Trophy as the top individual point scorer at the 2008 SEC Indoor Championships with a pair of title wins in the mile and 3,000 meters.
LSU’s middle distance group has also dominated the Southeastern Conference in recent years while accounting for 12 SEC titles and 21 All-SEC honors since 2007. Thomas set the pace by winning her four conference titles by sweeping SEC Indoor and Outdoor crowns in 2007 and 2008. Lipsey matched that effort with an SEC sweep of her own during the 2012 season.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers actually made history at the 2007 SEC Outdoor Championships by finishing 1-2 in the finals of both the men’s and women’s 800 meters. While James and Thomas won gold medals as SEC champions in the event, Twijukye and Tanya Osbourne finished as the SEC Outdoor silver medalists, which is believed to be the only time in the history of the meet that one school has won and finished second in each race in the same season.
During his tenure at LSU, Elliott has been responsible for the development of many standout distance runners at both the collegiate and international levels, including David Kiptoo, Joseph Tengalei and Passmore Furusa. Tengalei was ranked fifth in the world in the 800 meters during the 1995 season, while Kiptoo finished sixth in the men’s 800-meter final at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Furusa received five All-America honors during his collegiate career at LSU.
Elliott has also coached former Lady Tiger halfmilers Marian Burnett (Guyana) and Neisha Bernard-Thomas (Grenada) to berths into the Olympic Games and IAAF World Championships in recent years. After advancing to the 800-meter semifinal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Burnett competed at the IAAF World Championships in 2005 and 2007 before making her second career Olympics appearance in 2008. Bernard-Thomas, a World Championships participant in 2005, advanced to the semifinal round in back-to-back Olympic Games in 2008 and 2012.
Elliott actually served as the head coach for Guyana at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, before returning to the squad as the head coach at the 2007 IAAF World Championships. He was also an assistant coach for the country of Grenada at the World Championships in 2005.
Both Burnett and Bernard-Thomas enjoyed tremendous collegiate careers under Elliott. Bernard-Thomas, who wrapped up her career as the school-record holder in the half-mile race with a collegiate best of 2:01.32, won the NCAA Outdoor title in 2004 before finishing runner-up at the indoor national meet in 2005. She was also the winner at the Central American and Caribbean Championships in 2003. Elliott also guided Burnett to an NCAA Indoor crown with her victory in 2002.
The cross country teams have also enjoyed a measure of success with Elliott leading the way. He coached former LSU distance standout Joseph Simuchimba to the NCAA Cross Country Championships in 2007, his fifth athlete to qualify for the meet.
In 2000, Elliott helped Likhaya Dayile become the first man since Furusa in 1994 to qualify for the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Elliott also guided the men’s cross country team to a fourth-place finish at the SEC Championships, marking the Tigers best finish at the event since a second-place showing in 1989 when Elliott himself donned the purple and gold. That same year, Susanne Strunz developed into one of the nation’s premier 3,000-meter steeplechase threats, finishing second in the event at the SEC Championships and later qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Dayile and Strunz were not the first athletes to achieve success under Elliott’s guidance. In the mid-1990s, he helped transform former Lady Tiger Charlotte Mayock into one of the nation’s top distance runners when she became the first Lady Tiger to earn All-America honors in a distance more than 1,000 meters, placing seventh in the mile at the 1997 NCAA Indoor Championships. Mayock later advanced to the finals in the 3,000 meters at the 1997 NCAA Outdoor Championships and again qualified for the finals in the mile at the 1998 NCAA Indoor Championships.
In the fall of 1996, Elliott helped direct Mayock to a berth into the NCAA Cross Country Championships as she became the first Lady Tiger to accomplish such a feat. The women’s cross country team placed fifth at the SEC Cross Country Championships that year, marking the Lady Tigers’ best finish in program history.
A 1991 graduate of LSU, Elliott was a four-time NCAA All-American while competing for the Tigers and was a member of four-straight outdoor national championship teams (two at LSU and two at Blinn Junior College). Individually, Elliott earned runner-up honors in the 3,000 meters at the 1989 NCAA Indoor Championships and was a top-five finisher on three different occasions in a variety of other distance events, including the 5,000 and 10,000-meter races. At the conference level, Elliott won the SEC 10,000-meter title in 1989, as well as the SEC Indoor crown in the 5,000 meters in 1990. Prior to his career at LSU, Elliott was a 14-time junior college All-American at Blinn Junior College in Brenham, Texas.
A native of Spanish Town, Jamaica, Elliott earned his Bachelor of Science degree from LSU in 1991 and his associate of arts degree from Blinn Junior College in 1988. Elliott later added a master’s degree in kinesiology to his resume in 2000. Born on October 21, 1966, in Kingston, Jamaica, Elliott has two children, Breanna and Ashley.
The Elliott File
2005-Present – Assistant Head Coach
1994-2005 – Assistant Coach
4-time NCAA All-American
2-time SEC Champion
14-time Junior College All-American at Blinn JC
A member of four consecutive outdoor national championship teams (two at LSU in the NCAAs and two at Blinn JC in the NJCAAs)
Records and Achievements at LSU
3 NCAA Champions
10 SEC Champion athletes winning 19 SEC titles
Has coached his athletes to 11 current LSU school records
Served as Guyana’s head coach at the 2004 Olympic Games
Served as an assistant coach for Grenada at the 2005 IAAF World Championships