LSU Track & Field head coach Dennis Shaver announced July 11, 2017, the addition of assistant coach Mark Rinker to his staff as the former Northeastern University assistant is charged with leading LSU’s middle distance and distance runners and cross country teams.
On the cross country circuit in 2018, Rinker helped the women’s squad match the second best regional finish in program history with an eighth-place showing at the NCAA South Central Regional. Two freshmen, Julia Palin and Katy-Ann McDonald, were the catalysts all year long. Palin was LSU’s top finisher at six of the seven meets throughout the season, and McDonald was LSU’s top finisher at the NCAA Regional. The eighth place finish by the women marked the third time in program history that LSU finished inside the top 10 at the regional. LSU took sixth in 1999 and also finished eighth in 2012.
Rinker guided junior Ersula Farrow to scoring at both the indoor and outdoor SEC meets in the 800 meter run. Farrow and fellow distance runner Hollie Parker ran the ninth and 10th fastest 1,500 meter run times during the outdoor season. Farrow’s personal best of 4:20.99 ranks ninth in program history and Parker’s collegiate best of 4:24.19 is the 10th best in LSU history.
In his first season (2017) as the head cross country coach, Rinker guided freshman Eric Coston to the SEC Men’s Cross Country All-Freshman Team. Coston became the most recent SEC postseason award recipient since Dajour Braxton was named the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2015. Coston made major contributions in his first collegiate season for LSU as he led the men’s team in four of six races, all of which were on 8k courses. Coston notched his best 8k time in the Texas A&M Invitational, where he recorded a time of 24:17.3 to place eighth.
Coston’s other top-10 finish of the season was his best individual showing of the campaign in his first race as a Tiger. In the New Orleans Invitational, Coston earned seventh place with a time of 15:48.49 on the 5k course. Coston’s efforts pushed the Tigers to a second place team finish, their best mark of the season.
Rinker joined the LSU staff after three seasons at Northeastern where he served as the men’s cross country coach, men’s and women’s middle distance and distance coach and recruiting coordinator.
“We are very excited to welcome Mark Rinker as part of our staff here at LSU,” Shaver said. “Our goal is to win SEC and NCAA championships each and every season, and Rink will do a great job coaching an event group that’s been instrumental in our success over the years. We have a great group coming back in the fall that will be a key for us again in 2018.”
Rinker’s athletes were a catalyst in the Husky men taking home three-straight Colonial Athletic Association Outdoor Championships during his tenure from 2015-17, including four different athletes being crowned CAA individual champions under his watch. Northeastern made it a three-peat of CAA titles in 2017 thanks in large part to the performance of the middle distance crew as sophomores Donovan Connor and Marc Rienas and freshman Cameron Kunde swept the medals with a 1-2-3 finish in the 800-meter final at the conference meet.
Rienas finished runner-up to Connor in the 800 meters at the 2017 CAA Outdoor Championships after earning the title of CAA Outdoor Champion himself as a true freshman during the 2016 campaign.
The 2017 season closed the book on one of the most decorated careers in the history of Northeastern University track and field as Paul Duffey won the titles of U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Second-Team All-American and CAA Champion under Rinker’s direction. He was also a four-time NCAA Championship qualifier and six-time CAA Championship medalist in the last three seasons.
Duffey emerged as one of the NCAA’s elite 800-meter runners as a sophomore in 2015 when he set Northeastern’s indoor school record at 1 minute, 48.02 seconds en route to the semifinal round at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. He is also the second-fastest Husky to run the mile indoors after clocking a personal best of 3:59.30 as a senior in 2017.
Duffey followed his record-setting indoor season in 2015 by scoring the CAA title in the 800 meters that outdoor season while earning a berth into the field at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds for the first time. He ran the 1,500 meters at the NCAA East Prelims for the first time in his final season on the track this spring.
Also a standout in cross country, Duffey even went out as the CAA Cross Country Silver Medalist in his final season with the Huskies as the runner-up at the 2016 CAA Cross Country Championships. With Rinker leading the way, the Huskies won the New England Championship in cross country for the first time in 44 years since the 1972 season.
The Husky women have also thrived thanks to Rinker’s coaching as four different athletes have won five CAA Championship medals since 2015. In all, Rinker also coached the NU men and women to 13 New England titles, two IC4A titles, five school records and a total of 25 top-10 times with the program’s all-time indoor and outdoor performance lists.
“I want to thank Coach Shaver for the opportunity to join one of the premier track and field and cross country programs in the country,” Rinker said. “I’m looking forward to working with one of the best coaching staffs in the country and a group of fantastic athletes to win national championships here at LSU.
“I’m very appreciative and thankful for my time at Northeastern. Coach (Cathrine) Erickson has helped foster my development as a coach and has been very supportive through this process.”
According to Rinker’s official bio on NU’s athletics website, he joined the program in July 2014 after working as the Vice President of High Performance with ORRECO, which provides leading sports teams and manufacturers with ground-breaking services through a global network of partner laboratories. In his position, Rinker was responsible for overseeing the expansion of ORRECO in North America, developing marketing and brand awareness and fostering relationships with clients and business partners.
Prior to joining ORRECO, Rinker spent six years working as an assistant coach with the Oregon Track Club Elite, Nike’s professional track and field team based in Eugene, Oregon. In that time, he worked directly with a pair of Olympic medalists and five Olympic finalists from the 2012 Olympic Games in London, in addition to multiple medalists from the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in 2011 and 2013.
While on staff at OTC Elite, Rinker worked with the middle distance and distance athletes while working with the strength and conditioning program for distance athletes, assisting with oversight of the OTC Elite budget and coordinating team scheduling and travel.
Rinker graduated from James Madison University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, and was a three-year letterwinner with the Dukes’ cross country and track and field team from 2005-07.