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Damion McLean
Damion McLean is a 2002 graduate of Appalachian State and has been a coach since 2003.
photo courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics

Appalachian State’s McLean Gets Extension

App State Director of Track & Field/Cross Country Damion McLean has earned a contract extension that runs through the 2027-28 season, Director of Athletics Doug Gillin announced Tuesday. The extension was approved by Interim Chancellor Heather Norris and the Appalachian State University Board of Trustees.

“We are excited about the trajectory of App State Track & Field and Cross Country under Damion’s leadership,” Gillin said. “With momentum from men’s cross country’s Sun Belt title, the future is bright for our track & field and cross country programs.”

“I am appreciative of this contract extension and am thankful to the Board of Trustees, Chancellor Norris, Doug Gillin and App State Athletics for their support,” McLean said. “The coaching staff and I are persistently striving to elevate this program and maintain its position. Achieving Sun Belt success, which includes winning, is our ultimate objective for our programs.”

In his sixth season as the Director of Track & Field/Cross Country, McLean brought in men’s distance coach Brad Herbster and women’s distance coach Annie Richards for a strong cross country season. Under Herbster’s guidance, the men’s cross country team clinched its first Sun Belt Championship title since 2019 and scored the lowest at the championship meet with 28 points. Herbster was named 2023 Sun Belt Coach of the Year. Six Mountaineers collected All-SBC honors, and three Mountaineers broke the men’s 10K cross country record at the same meet. In addition to collecting first-team All-SBC honors, senior Oliver Wilson-Cook was the only men’s cross country athlete in the conference to earn three SBC Athlete of the Week honors during the 2023 season. The men’s cross country squad also earned its highest regional ranking since 2007.

Success followed the Black and Gold into the women’s indoor track & field season, where the 4×800-meter relay team of sophomore Addison Ollendick-Smith, seniors Elizabeth Fuller and Jasmine Donohue, and freshman Rhys Ammon clocked a time of 9:27.24, which broke a program record that had stood since 1993. Sophomore Ava Studney matched the indoor pole vault record with a clearance of 4.06m (13′ 3.75″) and collected SBC Indoor Women’s Field Athlete of the Week honors. At the Sun Belt Indoor Championships, five Mountaineers collected All-SBC accolades for their performances, which included a silver finish for the distance medley relay team of Ammon, freshman Nicole Wells, Ollendick-Smith and Donohue, as well as a bronze finish from graduate student Ashlee Osaji in the women’s triple jump. Graduate student Celia Agee was a Dr. Pepper Scholarship recipient for her hard work in the classroom.

During the outdoor season, the Mountaineers shattered five program records as well as a conference record. Osaji broke the App State and Sun Belt regular season women’s long jump record with a leap of 6.54m (21′ 5.5.”). The previous school record was set in 1993 by Melissa Morrison, who would later become a two-time Olympic medalist. In a stellar freshman season Matthew Gray broke and reset the App State men’s pole vault record within a week’s time, recording a program record clearance of 5.34m (17′ 6.25″) in front of the home crowd at the App State Open. The Black and Gold also saw Studney set the women’s outdoor pole vault record with a clearance of 4.04m (13′ 3″) and junior Garrett Bivens break the men’s outdoor 5,000-meter record with a time of 14:18.05.

At the Sun Belt Outdoor Championships, the women’s 4×400-meter relay team of Wells, freshman Sierra Smith, sophomore Daye Talley and freshman Jayla Adams broke the school record with a time of 3:40.1. Thirteen Mountaineers collected All-SBC honors at the conference meet, and the men’s team scored their most points and highest team finish (fourth) since joining the league in 2014.

Seven Mountaineers advanced to the NCAA East Preliminary Round, which is the most individual qualifiers the Mountaineers have had to the first round of the NCAA Championships in program history. The seven contenders included seniors Niejel Wilkins and Chris Wainscott, who made their second consecutive appearances at the preliminary round, as well as senior Taylor Smith, who made her second appearance at the preliminary round. Freshman Kendall Johnson and Wells also represented the Mountaineers at the USATF U20 Championships in the women’s 100 meters and women’s 200 meters.

2023-24 All-Conference Honorees
Men’s & Women’s Cross Country
Oliver Wilson-Cook, First-Team All-SBC (Men’s Cross Country)
Calbert Guest, First-Team All-SBC (Men’s Cross Country)
Dwayne Lillie, First-Team All-SBC (Men’s Cross Country)
Garrett Bivens, First-Team All-SBC (Men’s Cross Country)
Jonah Bird, Third-Team All-SBC (Men’s Cross Country)
Jasmine Donohue, Second-Team All-SBC (Women’s Cross Country)
Women’s Indoor Track & Field
Rhys Ammon, Second-Team All-SBC (Women’s Distance Medley Relay)
Nicole Wells, Second-Team All-SBC (Women’s Distance Medley Relay)
Addison Ollendick-Smith, Second-Team All-SBC (Women’s Distance Medley Relay)
Jasmine Donohue, Second-Team All-SBC (Women’s Distance Medley Relay)
Ashlee Osaji, Third-Team All-SBC (Women’s Triple Jump)
Men’s & Womens’ Outdoor Track & Field
Garrett Bivens, First-Team All-SBC (men’s 5,000 meters)
Ethan Lipham, First-Team All-SBC (men’s 1,500 meters)
Ashlee Osaji, First-Team All-SBC (women’s long jump)
Nicole Wells, Second-Team All-SBC (women’s 4x400m relay)
Sierra Smith, Second-Team All-SBC (women’s 4x400m relay)
Daye Talley, Second-Team All-SBC (women’s 4x400m relay)
Jayla Adams, Second-Team All-SBC (women’s 4x400m relay)
Matthew Gray, Second-Team All-SBC (men’s pole vault)
Addison Ollendick-Smith, Second-Team All-SBC (women’s 800 meters)
Oliver Wilson-Cook, Second-Team All-SBC (men’s 10,000 meters)
Jonah Bird, Third-Team All-SBC (men’s 10,000 meters)
Niejel Wilkins, Third-Team All-SBC (men’s triple jump)
Harrison Robinson, Third-Team All-SBC (men’s 110m hurdles)
2023-24 Athletes of the Week
Oliver Wilson-Cook, three-time Sun Belt Athlete of the Week selection
Ava Studney, Sun Belt Indoor Field Athlete of the Week selection
Taylor Smith, three-time Sun Belt Outdoor Athlete of the Week selection (twice for track, once for field)
Ashlee Osaji, Sun Belt Outdoor Field Athlete of the Week selection

2023-24 Awards & Titles
2023 Sun Belt Men’s Cross Country team title
Brad Herbster, 2023 Sun Belt Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year
Celia Agee, 2023-24 Dr. Pepper Scholarship Recipient
Ashlee Osaji, 2024 Sun Belt Women’s Outdoor Track & Field Newcomer of the Year
2023-24 Broken Program Records
Men’s Cross country 10K Record
Women’s Indoor 4×800-meter Relay Record (9:27.24) set by Addison Ollendick-Smith, Elizabeth Fuller, Jasmine Donohue, and Rhys Ammon
Women’s Indoor Pole Vault Record (4.06m (13′ 3.75″)) matched by Ava Studney
Women’s Outdoor Pole Vault Record (4.04m (13′ 3″)) set by Ava Studney
Women’s Outdoor Long Jump Record (6.54m (21′ 5.5″) set by Ashlee Osaji
Men’s Outdoor 5,000-meter Record (14:18.05) set by Garrett Bivens
Men’s Outdoor Pole Vault Record (5.34m (17′ 6.25″)) set by Matthew Gray
Women’s Outdoor 4×400-meter Relay Record (3:40.01) set by Nicole Wells, Sierra Smith, Daye Talley, Jayla Adams

{Information provided by Appalachian State Athletics}