(Editor’s note: Montana State University press release)
BOZEMAN – The Montana State track and field program will be led by a familiar face when the 2018-19 season begins. Lyle Weese – a former Bobcat standout that garnered four All-America honors, three Big Sky Conference individual championships and was named the Big Sky Male Outstanding Track Athlete of the Year as a senior – has been appointed as Montana State’s Director of Track and Field and Cross Country, announced Director of Athletics Leon Costello on Thursday, Aug. 16.
“I am excited for Lyle and the Bobcat Track and Field and Cross Country programs,” Costello said. “During the search process, it was clear that Lyle had a plan and vision for the programs. I am excited to work with him, the assistant coaches and student-athletes on achieving the goals for the program.”
Weese has been the Bobcats’ head coach of the cross country program, and an assistant track coach specializing in distance events, since the fall of 2014. Weese, who made his start as a coach on the Bobcat staff as a volunteer assistant in 2009, takes over the reins from longtime coach Dale Kennedy who announced his retirement in June.
“I feel a great sense of responsibility to carry on the tradition that’s been set by coach Kennedy and all of the other coaches that have served here at MSU,” Weese said. “I’m just excited about the future and where we can go as a program.”
Weese made his way to Bozeman after completing a stellar prep career at Beaverhead County High School in Dillon, Mont. His abilities on the track became even more noticeable when he joined the Blue and Gold.
The Bobcat distance runner earned his first All-America award as a junior when he placed 10th overall in the 3,000-meter run at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. His next All-America honor came as a senior on the MSU cross country team.
Weese helped lead the Bobcats to a conference championship by taking fifth at the Big Sky meet in 2002, then placed fourth individually at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships to help propel the squad to the NCAA Championships. Weese, serving as a captain on the team, led the Bobcats with a 19th place individual showing while the team took 11th overall at the meet. It’s Montana State’s best team performance all-time on the national stage.
His success continued as he moved into the track and field indoor and outdoor seasons. Weese completed back-to-back All-America finishes during the indoor slate by taking seventh in the 3,000 at the NCAA meet. He added a Big Sky championship to his individual achievements that season in the 5,000. He completed his collegiate career during the outdoor season by capturing two titles at the Big Sky meet during the outdoor season, winning the 5,000 and 3,000 steeplechase. He also earned his highest finish at an NCAA Championship event and completed his fourth All-America showing when he placed fifth in the steeplechase at the national outdoor meet in 2003.
“When he was an athlete here, I didn’t know he’d become a coach,” coach Kennedy said. “When he came back here and walked through the door and asked if he could help, I knew then that down the road this would be somebody who could lead a program. I think he’s a guy that’s done so much of the administrative work, especially the last four years, and I’ve realized that there’s a lot of things he can do.
“He’s organized, has such great management skills and connects well with student-athletes and the coaching staff. I think he can take the culture of the program at where it is and expand it and take it to another level. I couldn’t be more excited for him.”
Weese still owns Montana State’s program record in the men’s 3,000 steeplechase with a time of 8 minutes, 33.35 seconds. He sits among the best in the Bobcat record book in several events. Weese is currently sixth in the mile (4:04.21), second in the 3,000 (7:54.35) and fourth in the 5,000 (14:06.66) on MSU’s all-time indoor top 10 list. He sits sixth in the 1,500 (3:45.05) and third in the 5,000 (13:50.33) on the outdoor list.
“So much of the track and field and cross country program comes down to the tradition and the heritage of it,” Weese said. “There’s so many great student-athletes that have come through the program that have gone on to do great things athletically and in their professional careers. It’s really a benefit to our program to have coaches that have been here as long as they have, and coaches that understand and are familiar with alumni and the pride that they have in MSU track and field and cross country.”
Following a professional career that featured Weese training with Team USA Minnesota in Minneapolis and Big Sur Distance Project in Monterey, Calif., Weese served as an assistant coach at Hartnell Community College in Salinas, Calif., from 2007-09. Weese came back to Bozeman following the stint at Hartnell and has been part of the MSU program as a coach for eight seasons.
The distance program, since he took it over full-time in 2014, has continued to develop under Weese’s guidance and has become a focal point for the MSU track and field teams.
In his first year as the head distance coach, Weese’s athletes won 10 of the possible 20 Big Sky Conference titles in the distance/mid-distance track events. Heather Demorest and Cristian Soratos became Weese’s first All-Americans in 2015. Demorest earned an 11th-place finish in the 3,000m steeplechase on the women’s side, while Soratos became a household name during his senior campaign. Soratos broke the mile four-minute barrier and completed the fastest time in the NCAA in the event during the year before earning silver at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Soratos completed his career that outdoor season by taking seventh in the 1,500m on his way to first team All-America honors. Weese currently serves as coach for Soratos on the professional circuit.
Weese’s event group continued to see success in 2017. Senior Christie Schiel earned her third Big Sky Championship in the 800, the first indoors, and became the school’s record holder in the event indoors and outdoors during the year. Alyssa Snyder became MSU’s latest All-American, improving 16 spots from her seeded position going into the NCAA Championships and earning First Team recognition with her fourth-place finish behind a school-record time in the 10,000. The men’s side also had several solid showings during the season. Diego Leon became MSU’s third-ever male to break the four-minute barrier in the mile, then he joined a distance medley relay that became the Bobcats’ fourth ever group to win the Big Sky title in the event.
The 2017-18 season was a memorable one for Weese’s student-athletes. His women’s cross country team achieved its best finish at the Big Sky Championships since 1999 by finishing runner-up as a team. Caroline Hardin and Kelsi Lasota each earned all-conference honors and Trisha Carlson was named the Big Sky Freshman of the year. The men’s squad took fifth at the meet despite having no seniors in the lineup, while Cameron Carroll won the opening MSU-Bozeman Running Co. Invitational race. The Bobcat distance runners continued to pick up accolades when they moved into track and field. Lasota claimed a gold medal in the outdoor 5,000-meter run at the Big Sky Championships to highlight nine all-conference performances by the distance squad between the indoor and outdoor seasons.
“Lyle is a Bobcat,” Costello said. “He understands the culture as a former student-athlete and coach. He is committed to continuing the academic, athletic and community service success of the programs, and I look forward to supporting him in his new role as head coach.”
Weese takes over head track and field coaching duties for Montana State immediately.
“I feel comfortable with the coaches on staff and the relationships I’ve had with them over the years,” Weese said. “I really look forward to working with the great coaches that are here and the administration to put forth the best track and field and cross country program we can together.
“There’s definitely an element of continuing the things that we’ve done well. Success in the classroom and having well-rounded, great student-athletes. We want to win more Big Sky Conference Championships. We’re going to put our focus on that and that is the goal. Be able to contend for Big Sky titles and send more individuals to the NCAA Championships.”
The Montana State track and field program will begin a nationwide search to fill and complete its fourth position on its coaching staff.