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Karen Dennis
Karen  Dennis

Detroit, Mich.

Last College:
Michigan State '77

Head Coach

10th Season


* Since her first season in 1992, she has guided 15 student-athletes to NCAA All-America honors 25 times.
* Produced the school's first ever NCAA Woman of the Year (state of the Nevada) in distance standout Katie Barto.
* Has mentored two four-time NCAA All-Americans in Crystal Irving and Michele Davis.
* In 1992, her Rebels finished sixth overall at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, the highest team finish in school history at the national postseason meet.
* Served as the USA Track and Field Head Coach for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
* Named U.S. Women's Assistant Coach for the 1995 World Championships.
* Selected as the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Coach of the Year in 1993.
* Honored as NCAA District VIII Indoor Coach of the Year in 1993.
* Former president of the USA Track and Field Women's Coaches Association (1990-92).

Career Profile:
Karen Dennis is in her 10th season at the helm of the Rebel track and field program with the same tenacity and competitive drive that has kept UNLV in the national limelight since she was named the head coach in 1992.

The goals are the same as they have been in the past, too, except this year it will be the second year in which Mountain West Conference titles are what Dennis and the Rebels seek.

"In leaving the WAC two years ago, we lost a lot of good teams from a speed perspective," Dennis notes. "The Texas teams - TCU, UTEP, Rice - have a lot of speed. Losing that competitiveness in the speed events will only help us."

Dennis points that out knowing that the sprint events have been the strength of the Rebel team for years. That could be because Dennis herself was a standout sprinter at the collegiate level, competing at Michigan State. With a victory in the 220-yard dash, she led the Spartans to a fourth place finish at the AIAW National Championships in 1975.

She enjoyed a successful career on the track, highlighted by a fifth-place finish in the 220 at the U.S. Olympic Trials prior to the Olympic Games in Mexico City in 1968. She was also part of the 4X160-yard relay team for Tennessee State which set a world record.

A Detroit native, Dennis remained at Michigan State to complete the necessary coursework for a bachelor's degree in public affairs in 1977. In that same year, she was hired as the Spartans' women's track and field assistant coach.

By 1979, Dennis had earned her second degree from MSU, a master's in physical education, all the while gaining valuable coaching experience. She was rewarded for her efforts in 1981 and was named the program's head coach.

The Spartans soared under her direction, and she produced a number of outstanding athletes. Judi Brown-King won the silver medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Cheryl Gilliam was a 12-time Big Ten champion. Odessa Smalls won 13 Big Ten titles and earned All-America honors three times. And, she coached a Big Ten champ in the 10,000 meters, two-time All-American Mary Shea.

Under her guidance, Michigan State won the 1982 Big Ten Outdoor Championship. She also won District IV Coach of the Year honors for indoor track while leading the Spartans.

In 1992, Dennis took over the UNLV cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field teams after 11 seasons as the head coach at Michigan State. Only the second women's track and field coach in school history, her 1993 Rebel squad went on to win the MPSF Indoor Conference Championship, led by All-American Crystal Irving. This earned Dennis Conference Coach of the Year honors in just her first season.

Since her arrival in Las Vegas, she has guided 12 different recruits to All-America status, including Jessica Marable, the most recent and first athlete in a field event to earn that honor under Dennis. She also guided former distance standout Katie Barto to the NCAA Championships last season and to being named NCAA Woman of the Year for the state of Nevada.

She has weathered two conference changes in her tenure. First, the Rebels moved from the Big West Conference to the highly-competitive, 16-school WAC in 1996. More recently, she has overseen the program's move into the brand new Mountain West Conference.

The Rebels do not make their move to the new conference without leaving their mark on the old one. In their final season in the WAC, Dennis' crew posted their best-ever finishes and closed the deal with a runner-up finish at the WAC Outdoor Championships in 2000.

"This is an emerging elite program," Dennis says. "Our program has gotten consistently stronger and it is just a matter of time before we break through into the nation's elite."

But perhaps the most impressive accomplishment on the Dennis resume was her appointment as the head coach for the United States women's national team that competed in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. In December of 1997, USA Track and Field announced that Dennis had been chosen in a vote of the organization's membership.

Dennis has been involved on the national and international track and field scenes for quite some time. Most recently, she served as the assistant coach of the 1995 World Championships squad in Gotteberg, Sweden. She also coached the U.S. women's team at the 1991 Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba and served as an assistant women's coach at the World University Championships in Duisburg, Germany, in 1989.

In addition, she coached at the 1985 U.S. Sports Festival and has served as the women's referee at the Drake Relays. She is on the USA Track & Field International Competition Committee and is a past president of the Athletic Congress Women's Track Coaches Association. Dennis also has served as a member of the NCAA Women's Track and Field Committee and the NCAA Track Coaches Association.

Dennis has one daughter, Ebony, who is a graduate of Howard University.

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