Director of Track and Field/Cross
Fifth Season (Track and Field), 19th Season (Cross Country)
Humboldt State, 1983
After coaching the men’s cross country team to a seventh
straight and 10th overall Big West Conference championship, Mark
Conover was named Cal Poly’s Director of Track and Field and
Cross Country on Dec. 30, 2009.
Conover is currently in his 19th season at Cal Poly and has led the Mustangs to 14 appearances at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, with seven of those coming as a full team. He has coached the men’s cross country squad to four top-20 national finishes, including 13th in 2003, 10th in 2004, 13th in 2006 and 11th in 2007.
“I am honored to be selected as the Director of Track and Field and Cross Country at Cal Poly,” Conover said. “To be in the position to lead the program into the next decade is a coach’s dream. Cal Poly offers everything that is necessary when it comes to having a successful program due to its prestigious academic standing and the ‘learn by doing’ experience that is offered to the student-athlete in a setting that is second to none.”
“I look forward to providing a positive environment that will allow the student-athlete to obtain academic and athletic excellence,” he added. “I also look forward to recruiting and coaching bright, energetic and passionate young men and women who seek the outstanding education and athletic opportunity that Cal Poly offers.”
Conover has been named the Big West Coach of the Year a combined 15 times on either the men's or women's sides, as well as the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association West Region Coach of the Year three times (in 2000, 2003 and 2011).
During his tenure at Cal Poly, Conover has coached a pair of two-time All-Americans in both track and field and cross country, and a third All-American in cross country in 2012. He has also coached 49 NCAA West Region men’s and women’s track and field qualifiers and 39 individual All-West Region men and women in cross country.
Conover also has coached 43 Big West Conference individual champions in track and field and cross country, produced four Big West Track Athletes of the Year, seven Big West Cross Country Athletes of the Year, two Freshmen of the Year in track and seven Freshmen of the Year in cross country.
He has coached men and women to 44 top-10 all-time performances in Cal Poly track history, including the school record-holders in the men’s 5,000 and 10,000 meters and the women’s steeplechase.
The women’s cross country team, which he assisted before assuming full duties, had its highest conference finish in eight years in 2009 (third). The Mustangs also earned USTFCCCA All-Academic Team status in 2007 and 2013, and won the 2004-05 and 2007-08 Big West team GPA awards.
“Cal Poly has a longstanding tradition of excellence in the sports of track and field and cross country, with numerous All-Americans as well as alumni who went on to become Olympians,” Conover said. “That fact, combined with the number of successful coaches who came before me and the number of alumni who are currently successful high school and collegiate coaches, truly make it special to be the Director of Track and Field and Cross Country at Cal Poly. The program has a special place in the hearts of many alumni and fans of the sport who have been associated with Cal Poly.”
Conover coached the Cal Poly Male Athlete of the Year in 2007 and the Female Athlete of the Year in 2013.
Conover was a nine-time All-American distance runner at Humboldt State, and earned the rare distinction of becoming an All-American in all three NCAA divisions. He was the national champion in both the 10,000 meters and cross country in 1981.
In 1988, Conover was the Olympic Trials champion in the marathon and went on to run at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He competed professionally from 1984-96 and was a four-time U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier.
A graduate of Miramonte High School in Orinda, Calif., Conover earned his bachelor’s degree in natural resource planning and interpretation at Humboldt State in 1983 and a master’s degree at Cal Poly in city and regional planning in 1989.
Conover, who survived a battle with Hodgkin’s disease in 1993 and 1994, was inducted into the Humboldt State University Hall of Fame in 1993.
Prior to his coaching stint at Cal Poly, Conover was an assistant planner with San Luis Obispo County from 1989-92 and editor of a magazine, The Runner’s Schedule, from 1992-95. He served internships in the planning departments for the city of San Luis Obispo in 1985 and Morro Bay in 1987.
Mark lives with his wife, Kelly, in San Luis Obispo. They had triplets in May 2007 — two girls, Audrey and Marley, and a boy, Cordell.