Photo by: UC San Diego Athletics
Left to right: Tony Salerno, Darcy Ahner, Mick Gieskes, Mike Kuoppamaki, Addy Royal, Nate Garcia. Not pictured: Anthony Garcia.

100-Plus Years of Combined Coaching Sits at the Helm of UC San Diego Track and Field

UC San Diego

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LA JOLLA, Calif. – It’s been a long time coming. 

The University of California San Diego track and field coaching staff currently makes up a combined 100-plus years of coaching experience. Ranging from head coaches, assistant coaches and specific event coaches, seven diverse individuals have established a solid foundation for their scholar-athletes over the course of 20 seasons. 

The seven coaches include Men’s Head Coach Tony Salerno, Women’s Head Coach Darcy Ahner, Sprint Coach Mick Gieskes, Distance Coach Nate Garcia (UC San Diego ’00), Pole Vault Coach Mike Kuoppamaki, Assistant Coach Addy Royal, and Volunteer Coach Anthony Garcia (UC San Diego ’05).

Four coaches in particular have bled blue and gold for as long as they can remember. Salerno approaches his 21st year at the top of the men’s program, as Ahner enters her 13th stint leading the women. Gieskes begins his 24th year overall and Nate Garcia embarks on season 18.

Kuoppamaki (10), Royal (1) and A. Garcia (4) supply another 15 seasons to the pack.

Knowledge in three NCAA levels of competition (Division I, II, and III) is another unique element that sets the Triton coaching staff apart from others. For Salerno and Gieskes, the duo has witnessed UC San Diego’s historical transition from Division III to Division II, and very soon to Division I. 

With great continuity, comes great success. UC San Diego track and field has flourished on a global scale with its elite leaders guiding the way. 

 

Women

Men

Total

CCAA Team Titles

1

6

CCAA Runners-Up

8

7

15

CCAA Individual/Relay Championships

98

75

173

All-West Region (since 2010)

62

63

125

All-America (DII, DIII)

49

127

176

NCAA Appearances (last 18 years)

15

14

29

NCAA Championship Team Trophies (DIII)

3rd-place (2) 4th-place (2)

4

NCAA Individual Champions (DII, DIII)

9

9

18

CoSIDA Academic All-America

3

8

11

CoSIDA Academic All-District

6

9

15


The track and field team has also earned United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic Team recognition multiple times for its collective efforts in the classroom. 

Salerno and Ahner have both received various Track and Field California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Coach of the Year and NCAA West Region Coach of the Year awards during their tours in La Jolla. Salerno garnered Division II National Coach of the Year in 2005.

In addition, Gieskes was selected Cross Country West Region Coach of the Year in 1999 and holds responsible for UC San Diego’s first ever CCAA Championship in 1997 with cross country’s women’s squad. 

Aside from the many athletic and academic achievements, the entire staff prides themselves in the relationships built between the scholar-athletes. A culture based on family and a commitment to growth have evolved at UC San Diego since the seasoned instructors united.

Salerno, Gieskes and Nate Garcia are all San Diego natives, significantly connecting them to UC San Diego’s campus community.

Salerno helped design Triton Track & Field Stadium in 1987 that remains one of the best facilities on the West Coast. Since, he has watched his scholar-athletes develop and progress on the turf he detailed. Gieskes, whose father is an emeritus professor at UC San Diego, just about grew up on the La Jolla campus and continues to devote endless time and effort towards the track and field legacy.

More so, Nate Garcia, a former UC San Diego track and field alum, graduated in 2000 having achieved several academic and athletic honors. His first-hand familiarity gives scholar-athletes personal insight into the challenges of a position he once filled not too long ago.  

The connections extend beyond the competition and have begun to appear in life prior to collegiate athletics. Ahner has officiated the weddings of multiple track and field alumni as another testament to the meaningful comraderies created at the institution. 

The track and field programs at UC San Diego have thrived athletically and academically, with a notable desire to develop well-rounded young adults. This is all made possible thanks to the groundwork and stability provided from the mentors at the top.

Stay tuned for part two to hear from Salerno, Ahner, Gieskes, and Nate Garcia in next week’s Q&A release.  

COACHING EXPERIENCE AT A GLANCE
TONY SALERNO:

  • UCSD Men’s Head Coach (2000-Present) … UCSD Men’s/Women’s Head Coach (1993-95) … UCSD Assistant Coach (1988-92) … Air Force Academy Coach (1996-99) … Assistant Coach San Diego Mesa College (1982-87)

DARCY AHNER: 

  • UCSD Women’s Head Coach (2007-Present) … UCSD Women’s/Men’s Associate Head Coach (2006-07) … UCSD Women’s/Men’s Assistant Coach (2000-05) … University of New Mexico Assistant Coach (1991-97) … Northern Arizona University Associate Head Coach (1999) … Northern Arizona University Jumps/Hurdles/Multi-Events Coach (1998-99) … International Head & Assistant Coach Overseas (2018 & 2019 Thorpe Cup, Track & Field Pan Am Combined Events, Paralympic Team)

MICK GIESKES: 

  • UCSD Track and Field Sprint Coach (2002-Present) … UCSD Assistant Cross Country and Distance Coach (1996-01)

NATE GARCIA: 

  • UCSD Cross Country Head Coach (2007-Present) … UCSD Track and Field Distance Coach (2006-Present) … UCSD Cross Country Assistant Coach (2002-07)

MIKE KUOPPAMAKI:  

  • UCSD Track and Field Pole Vault Coach (2009-Present) … Coach at Boise State, SF State, UC Davis 

ADDY ROYAL:

  • UCSD Assistant Coach (2018-Present) … Coach at Southern Oregon

ANTHONY GARCIA:

  • UCSD Volunteer Assistant Cross Country & Distance Coach (2015-Present) .... Coach at Cuyamaca College (2012-14)

About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country.  The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference.  UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent.  A total of 82 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 37 have earned prestigious NCAA Post Graduate Scholarships.  In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.

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