Kelly Phillips is entering her fifth season at the helm of the Florida State women’s cross country and distance program with the Noles on the cusp of returning to a place of prominence on the national scene.
The 2018 FSU cross country women returned to the national rankings for the first time since 2015, and qualified for their first NCAA Cross Country Championships since 2014 by claiming their first South Region team title since 2013. That momentum carried over to the track where distance crew scoring nearly led the Noles to a sweep of the ACC indoor and outdoor titles.
The opportunity to compete for NCAA Championships played a significant role in luring Phillips back to the Sunshine State in 2015. After enduring some growing pains in a program makeover, the ‘Noles 2018-19 success validated that decision to return to the state where she launched her coaching career in 1997 at USF as an assistant to Bob Braman.
Phillips has completely turned over her women’s distance roster, building the kind of quality depth that had been sorely missing when she arrived. She’s done that by developing in-state talent and tirelessly adding both international and domestic talent which is thriving under her guidance.
Senior Militsa Mircheva became FSU’s first cross country All-American since Colleen Quigley in 2014 and also set a pair of school records on the track. She was one of five Noles to win All-South Region honors as FSU raced to the team title on its home course to end a four-year NCAA Championships appearance drought. Four of those All-Region selections will return for a team capable of challenging for a podium finish in 2019.
Not surprisingly, Phillips was selected as the South Region Cross Country Coach of the Year.
And FSU’s 2019 signing class, which includes young Dutch star Yasmine Abbes, Texan Ava Peeples, Florida prep standout Rebecca Clark and Villanova transfer Lauren Ryan, will provide the program with unprecedented depth when paired with returning underclassmen Maudie Skyring, Jodie Judd and Elizabeth Funderburk, among others.
On the track, Phillips’ charges contributed 22 of the team’s 85 points in a runner-up ACC indoor finish, and followed up with scoring performances in the 800, 1500, 5,000 and 10,000 en route to a runaway ACC outdoor team title.
Phillips arrived at FSU from Miami of Ohio, where she spent six seasons as the women’s cross country and track & field head coach, leading the Redhawks women to a pair of Mid-American cross country titles. She was a two-time MAC Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year (2009, 2013).
Throughout her career, Phillips cross country teams have excelled academically, earning 10 consecutive USTFCCCA All-Academic team honors. Her 2017 and 2018 FSU teams posted the highest GPAs in program history.
Prior to Miami, Phillips was an assistant at Purdue (2005-09), which followed a three-year coaching hiatus while running the Claremont Trails Running Camp in New Hampshire. Phillips cut her coaching teeth at USF, succeeding Braman as the head men’s and women’s cross country and track & field coach in 2000. Leading the Bulls to three conference cross country titles – twice with the women and once with the men – Phillips was a three-time Conference USA Cross Country Coach of the Year and two-time South Region Coach of the Year. She added CUSA Women’s Outdoor Track & Field Coach of the Year honors in her final season. In all, Phillips guided 33 Bulls to the NCAA Championships.
A Toms River, N.J. native, Phillips (nee, McDonnell), set 14 school records and was a two-time All-American at Auburn (1500, 3000) as a senior in 1991. A two-time Olympic Trials qualifier in the 1500, she trained post-collegiately in Washington, D.C. with the Reebok Enclave under the guidance of Frank Gagliano and Ron Helmer, who were also instrumental in shaping her coaching philosophy.
Phillips’ two distance running sons, Michael and Connor, are competing collegiately at Syracuse and Florida State, respectively.