Greensburg Salem grad set to coach start-up Point Park track and field program

| Thursday, July 10, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Point Park is adding a men's and women's track and field program to the school's rapidly expanding athletic department, and its first coach, Kelly Parsley, is prepared for the arduous challenges of constructing a new college athletics program.

You could say he hit the ground running.

Parsley, who was hired by Point Park to head the program in January, is a Greensburg native and Greensburg Salem alumnus, and has spent the last 12 years as either a cross country or track and field coach at different stops at the collegiate and high school levels.

However, Parsley said this opportunity is special to him.

“I've always wanted to coach in Pittsburgh,” Parsley said. “The opportunity to get back to the city, the area that I know and start recruiting — it's a great opportunity to create a team and do it successfully.”

The beginning of Parsley's head-coaching career came in 2000 when he was hired to be the first coach of the newly minted Goldey Beacom (Del.) men's and women's cross country program. Participating at the NAIA level and later on at the Division II level, Parsley helped lead Goldey Beacom to two Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference championships in five seasons before being hired to helm the cross country program at Division III Lake Forest outside Chicago.

There, he won the Midwest Conference Coach of the Year award in 2006. In 2010, he moved back home and served on the Vincentian Academy cross country coaching staff for two seasons before returning to the collegiate ranks as coach at Webster, and then Lindenwood-Belleville in Belleville, Ill.

An important part of Parsley's robust resume is his experience with starting a new college program. The Pioneers coach believes this experience will help inform him on how to better execute his duties, especially in the area of recruiting.

“When I talk to a recruit, I want them to know that it's about everything,” Parsley said. “It's about being part of something new. A lot of schools are dropping athletic programs. Here, we're excited to build one.”

The inaugural recruiting class for the Pioneers track and field program already boasts pledges from 44 student-athletes, either high school seniors or college transfers, from across the country. Recruits from Texas, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio will join WPIAL performers Alexander Vaughn (Trinity Christian), Stephanie Hutchinson (Norwin), Marvin Walker (Brashear), Katie Guarnaccia (North Allegheny) and Shawn Berry (Shady Side Academy) to help create Point Park's first roster.

Meeting the challenges of selling a city-based school to track and field athletes is a task that Parsley gladly meets head-on.

“I tell recruits that if you're not interested in living in a city, then this school is not for you,” Parsley said. “But here you get resume-building experiences, internship opportunities — you don't get those things in the middle of Ohio.”

While the task of building a first-year program can be daunting, Parsley relishes the challenge. He believes that Point Park will be capable of impressing in its first season of KIAC competition.

“Our goal is to help these kids get better, get them to nationals,” Parsley said. “We want kids to qualify for nationals and if we keep kids happy and healthy I think we'll be battling for a conference championship next year.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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