Evan O’Kelly, MSUB Athletics
BILLINGS – Dave Coppock, who has been the head cross country coach at Montana State University Billings since 1989, announced Tuesday that he will retire from his position at the conclusion of the 2016-17 academic year.
Coppock has served as the head track and field coach as well since the program’s reintroduction in 2007, and has been involved with MSUB’s athletic department for the better part of three decades.
“I have enjoyed my time at MSUB, and though it is tough to step down from a situation that’s in good shape, I feel that I’ve given everything I can physically and emotionally to the program,” Coppock said. “This is something I have done for almost half of my life, and I had no idea it was going to evolve into what it has. I want to continue to be involved with the program, and support the athletic department as much as I can in the future.”
Coppock will lead the Yellowjacket track and field program through the end of the year, upon which the search for his replacement will commence.
“It is difficult to quantify what Dave has given to MSUB over the last three decades, and neither our cross country nor track and field programs would be where they are today without his dedication and service,” said MSUB director of athletics Krista Montague. “We are all honored to have called Dave a colleague, and cannot express how thankful we are for his commitment to being a coach at MSUB. He has personally touched the lives of countless athletes, and he’ll always be remembered for being a pioneer of the cross country and track programs at MSUB and in Billings as a whole.”
Coppock arrived at MSUB as a volunteer assistant in 1989 and assisted in founding the cross country program, and is the only head coach the school has had in the sport. He was a key figure in spearheading the 2014 and 2016 NCAA Division II West Region Cross Country Championships hosted by MSUB at Amend Park, the first time in school history that MSUB hosted a Division II regional championship event.
Coppock coached seniors Della Lyle and Robert Peterson to the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field National Championships in 2015-16, where Lyle became the first female All-American in MSUB’s track & field history.
Under Coppock’s guidance, Peterson also competed in the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships, after reclaiming his title as the GNAC Mile Champion and helping MSUB’s distance medley relay team to the GNAC indoor title as well.
A former cross-country and track runner at the University of Northern Iowa and University of Montana, Coppock has produced 32 all-conference (track & field) and five NCAA all-region runners in cross-country. He has coached 17 NCAA DII National Track & Field Championships provisional qualifiers with two automatic qualifiers and two NCAA appearances. From his track and field teams, he has produced 10 champions.
He has also had multiple NCAA DII all-region track performers, including Lyle and Peterson last season. In distance running, Coppock has coached two former cross-country runners (Sarah Graves and Heidi Reider Schuette) who became U.S. Olympic marathon trials qualifiers.
Under Coppock’s guidance in 2014-15, Peterson became the first-ever Yellowjacket to earn a spot in the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships. He also earned USTFCCCA All-American honors after finishing 10th in the mile at the 2015 Indoor Championships.
In 2013-14, under Coach Coppock’s direction, the men’s and women’s track and field teams produced a record number of all-conference and GNAC champions. At the GNAC Indoor Championships, Peterson ran a meet record in the men’s mile to win the conference title. At the GNAC Outdoor Championships, it was senior Robinson who took the men’s 1500 title, with Peterson 0.37 seconds behind for a 1-2 finish. Corrie Holm was a conference champion for the women’s track and field team, winning the conference title at the GNAC Outdoor Championships in the women’s discus.
In 2006, the Yellowjacket women won the Heartland Conference Championships and four men and women were named to the all-conference teams. The 2006 women were also ranked as high as 10th in the NCAA South Central Region.
Coppock’s teams over the years have placed as high as second in the Pacific West Conference (twice) and fifth in the NCAA West Region. Under Coppock’s guidance, the Yellowjackets have also been ranked as high as No. 16 in the nation.
In addition to the success Coppock’s teams have had on the course, they have also been among the most successful teams in the nation in the classroom. Both the women’s and men’s programs have perennially been named to the NCAA Division II Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic teams and have maintained one of the highest team grade point averages in the nation.
Coppock is a 1979 graduate of the University of Montana with a degree in geology. He was named the 2006 Heartland Conference Women’s Coach of the Year and has been named the Montana USATF Road Racer of the Year two times. He currently serves on the USTFCCCA Track and Field Executive Committee as the Great Northwest Conference Representative and is a board member of the Yellowstone Rimrunners Running Club.