DARTMOUTH, Mass. – After 30 years of service in the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Athletics Department, head cross country coach Jon Hird has announced his retirement, effective at the conclusion of the 2017-18 academic year.
Since joining then-Southeastern Massachusetts University in 1988, Hird has served in a variety of roles, including head men’s and women’s cross country coach for all 30 years, head men’s and women’s track and field coach, assistant track and field coach and academic coordinator. During his tenure, the Corsair cross country and track and field programs produced 17 All-Americans and captured 15 Little East Conference team titles. Ten of his former athletes are additionally enshrined in the Corsair Hall of Fame.
“On behalf of UMass Dartmouth Athletics, I want to acknowledge Jon Hird for his 30 years of service to the department and his student-athletes,” said Director of Athletics Amanda Van Voorhis. “Throughout his career Coach Hird has demonstrated a sincere concern for his student-athletes both in the classroom and in competition. His accomplishments as a coach are apparent from his conference championships to all of his all-conference performers. The true measure of his contributions as a Division III head coach is the success of his student-athletes in their respective post-graduation careers, and in that area, he has always done an outstanding job. We congratulate him on his coaching career and wish him the best in retirement.”
On the cross country course, Hird guided his teams to NCAA Division III Championship appearances in four seasons, including 1989, 1990, 1994 and 1995 on the men’s side. Hird’s 1989 men’s team placed 14th at the national meet, and followed a year later with an 18th place finish. In 1994, Deon Barrett ’95 earned All-America accolades, placing 24th at the NCAA Championship in Bethlehem, Pa. after a remarkable fifth-place finish at the New England regional meet.
Under Hird’s tutelage, Abdulgani Abdi became the first Corsair Cross Country All-American since Barrett in 2003. Following a 16th-place finish at the New England regional, Abdi advanced to the national championship in Hanover, Ind., placing 17th overall.
In the LEC, the Corsairs were a force to be reckoned with throughout the 1990s. The men claimed nine-straight LEC titles, spanning from Hird’s first season in 1988 to 1996, with six individual LEC Championships during that stretch including three by Barrett and two by Tom Steele ‘97. On the women’s side, UMass Dartmouth earned LEC team titles in 1990, 1992 and 1994-96, as Hilaria Rocha ‘92 and Maura McDonald ’99 captured individual crowns in 1990 and 1996, respectively.
Since the advent of LEC Cross Country postseason awards in 2007, UMass Dartmouth runners have frequently been recognized, with Hird responsible for six Rookies of the Year. In 2008, he was named the LEC Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year.
Under Hird, UMass Dartmouth’s track and field programs also produced several of the most decorated athletes in program history. Most notably, Jonathan Garcia ’08 garnered a program-record six All-American awards in the hurdles, spanning from 2005-08. Garcia was a five-time LEC Champion, and still holds three school records alongside LEC records in the 55-meter hurdles and 110-meter hurdles. David Araujo ’92 claimed All-American status in two separate events, long jump and triple jump, in 1988 alone, with Keith Rose ’99 capturing the honor in the javelin in back-to-back seasons (1996-97).
Regionally, Hird has consistently represented UMass Dartmouth at the highest levels of his sports. He was a key player in the formation of the New England Alliance, an umbrella grouping of the track and field and cross country programs of the LEC and Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC). The Alliance was initially formed in 1997 with the first cross country championship, with outdoor track holding its first Alliance meet in 1998 and the indoor championship debuting in 2000. From 2009-13, Hird served as New England’s representative on the NCAA Division III Track and Field Sport Committee, and presently serves on the NCAA’s Track and Field Rules Committee.
Prior to joining UMass Dartmouth, Hird spent nine years at Brown University, where he was the institution’s first head coach for women’s cross country and women’s track and field. His Bear teams earned 32 Ivy League titles and set 14 conference records, with six individuals and one relay team qualifying for the NCAA Division I national championships.