Entering her sixth season at Florida State, Kelly Phillips has guided the women’s cross country program back to a place of prominence on the national scene, while developing NCAA qualifiers on the track on the track as well.
In 2019 the FSU cross country women won their second consecutive NCAA South Region title and capped the season off by finishing 12th at the NCAA Championships. That was a 14-position improvement from 2018, when the Noles locked up their first trip to the NCAA Championships since 2014 by claiming their first South Region title since 2013.
With nearly their entire roster returning in the fall of 2020, Phillips’ squad has designs on challenging for a top-four finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
On the track, her distance runners were instrumental in leading the Noles to the 2019 ACC Indoor Championships and came up just short of adding the outdoor title as well. And while the 2020 track seasons waere cut short by the pandemic, Phillips qualified two runners – Maudie Skyring and Elizabeth Funderburk – to the NCAA Indoor Championships; the first to do so on her watch since 2016.
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.
The results speak volumes. After back-to-back ninth-place ACC Cross Country Championship finishes in 2016 and 2017, the Noles Improved to fourth in 2018 and second in 2019; the program’s best finish since 2014. A trio of Noles earned All-ACC honors in 2019; the most since 2013.
Over the past two years FSU’s women have piled up 11 All-South Region honors, with a high of six in 2019. In 2018, Militsa Mircheva followed up her South Region individual title to become FSU’s first cross country All-American since Colleen Quigley in 2014. She also set a pair of school records on the track. On the track, Phillips’ Noles have established three new school records and authored 14 total (10 indoor/4 outdoor) new all-time, top 10 marks.
Accordingly, Phillips has won back-to-back South Region Cross Country Coach of the Year.
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 11 consecutive USTFCCCA All-Academic team honors. Her last three FSU teams have 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 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.