Nebraska Head Track and Field Coach Gary Pepin, the leader of the Husker program for 42 years, announced his retirement on Thursday, bringing to a close one of the most successful coaching careers in collegiate track and field history.
In his 42 years as the head coach of the Husker Track and Field program, Pepin’s list of career accomplishments includes three NCAA Championship teams, 73 conference team titles, 59 individual NCAA Champions, 639 All-Americans, 597 individual conference champions and 68 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans.
A USTFCCCA Hall of Fame member, Pepin was named Big 12 and Big Ten Coach of the Year a combined 28 times, and he was the USTFCCCA Region Coach of the Year 11 times.
“I want to express my gratitude to the Athletic Department Administration for the support of our program over the last 42 years,” Pepin said. “The success it has achieved would not have been possible otherwise. I’m also grateful for the hard work and many hours put in by the Husker Track & Field Officials Organization, and of course the hundreds of student-athletes that are part of the Husker family.
It has been an absolute honor to coach here at Nebraska. I have worked with numerous amazing coaches and world-class student-athletes. I will continue to follow and support the program and look forward to spending more time with my family in retirement. The future is bright here at Nebraska and I am confident that the program will continue to develop and find success. Go Big Red!”
“Gary Pepin is one of the true legends in the history of Nebraska Athletics,” Nebraska Vice Chancellor, Director of Athletics Trev Alberts said. “His accomplishments in more than four decades as the head coach of our track and field program speak volumes – from team and individual national champions, dozens of conference championships, and coaching Olympic standouts. Gary Pepin is Nebraska Track and Field. We wish him nothing but the best in retirement and look forward to seeing him at Husker events in the years to come.”
Pepin’s 42-year tenure at Nebraska is the longest by a head coach in Husker athletics history. Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten Conference in 2011-12, Pepin’s teams won six Big Ten championships, including a men’s sweep of the indoor and outdoor titles in 2016. Individually, Huskers captured 84 Big Ten event titles. The Husker men claimed the Track & Field News Dual Meet National Championship in 2017 and were crowned the indoor champions in 2019.
Pepin was honored as the USTFCCCA Midwest Region Coach of the Year 11 times in his career, including the men’s indoor honor in 2019 after the Husker men claimed the Big Ten indoor title for the third time in five years. He was a 28-time conference coach of the year, including six awards in the Big Ten era. He was the Big Ten Men’s Indoor Coach of the Year in 2019. Pepin was also honored as the 1995 USTCA National Indoor Track Coach of the Year, and he earned NCAA District 5 Women’s Coach of the Year in 1995 and 1996.
The Pepin-coached Husker women won the 1982, 1983 and 1984 indoor national championships. Pepin’s teams combined for 23 top-five NCAA finishes, and 59 Huskers were crowned national champions in their events. Pepin coached NU women who won 18 indoor and 24 outdoor individual national championships. His male athletes garnered nine indoor and eight outdoor individual national titles.
Only the fourth coach to guide the NU men’s program since World War I, Pepin maintained the program’s stability after replacing the late Frank Sevigne in 1984. Pepin’s men’s program matched the women’s success, capturing 20 indoor and 13 outdoor conference titles during his 42-year tenure. Pepin guided Nebraska to an incredible 44 Big Eight indoor/outdoor titles, more than any other coach in the history of the conference. After joining the Big 12 Conference in 1997, Nebraska won a league-high 22 indoor/outdoor titles.
Among the elite athletes Pepin coached at Nebraska are eight-time Olympic medalist, world champion and world-record holder Merlene Ottey; four-time NCAA champion Rhonda Blanford; Angela Thacker, who missed a bronze medal in the long jump by one-quarter inch at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles; 1989 NCAA outdoor triple jump champion Renita Robinson; 1991 NCAA outdoor 400-meter dash champion and Olympic bronze medalist Ximena Restrepo; three-time NCAA triple jump champion and Olympian Ineta Radevica; two-time NCAA long jump champion Arturs Abolins; indoor high jump national champion, school indoor and outdoor record holder and 2008 Olympian, Dusty Jonas; 2009 indoor national champion and Big 12 indoor and outdoor long jump champion Nicholas Gordon, who also represented Jamaica at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin, Germany; nine-time conference champion Mara Griva; Big Ten champion and 2016 Olympic high jumper Marusa Cernjul, and seven-time All-American high jumper and two-time Big 12 champion Shane Lavy.
Known as one of the premier jumps coaches in the nation, Pepin coached former Husker Angee Henry, a 10-time All-American, to indoor and outdoor NCAA long jump titles in 1996. Under Pepin’s tutelage, former Husker Nicola Martial won the 1994 and 1995 NCAA outdoor triple jump titles and added the 1996 NCAA indoor triple jump crown. At the 1996 Olympic Games, Martial represented Guyana in the triple jump. Pepin’s top male performer prior to Abolins and Jonas was four-time All-American Petar Malesev, the 1995 NCAA indoor high jump champion.