Courtesy: Zach Lawson, Athletic Media Relations
Joining the Razorbacks in the fall of 1998, Bryan Compton has proven to Arkansas that he was an invaluable addition for its coaching staff. In 14 years of working with the Razorback throwers and vaulters, Compton’s student-athletes have set 14 school records a total of 71 times, not including numerous heptathlon marks.
Following a breakout season in 2011, Compton protege Tina Sutej repeated as the NCAA indoor champion in Nampa, Idaho. She kicked off the championship season by winning her third SEC indoor title with an NCAA-record clearance of 14-11. At the same meet, Tara Diebold established a new personal best with a mark of 14-4 to clinch an SEC runner-up finish.
The level of success of Compton’s group reached a new level during the 2011 season with a special season from Sutej. Having established herself with a runner-up finish at the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships, the Slovenian standout made history with a pair of NCAA records in 2011. At both SEC meets, Sutej vaulted her way to the top of the records book with clearances of 14-10.75 (indoor) and 15-1.5 (outdoor), the best-ever marks by a collegiate.
Sutej was rewarded for her season by being named one of three finalists for The Bowerman, the first athlete in Arkansas history to be selected. She was a two-time All-American in 2011 and won the NCAA Indoor title in the pole vault. Compton had two vaulters—Sutej and Diebold—finish in the top six at the national indoor meet, combining for 13 points toward Arkansas’ fourth-place team total.
Sutej dominated the field category in 2011 as the SEC Indoor and Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year, South Central Region Indoor and Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year and USTFCCCA National Women’s Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year.
Arkansas’ resident vault expert was recognized for his contributions during the spring of 2005 when Compton was named the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches’ Association’s (USTFCCCA) Mideast Region Assistant Coach of the Year. That season his athletes earned two All-America honors, broke a pair of school records and each of the student-athletes he coached earned a spot at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships, including four pole vaulters.
Compton’s expertise in the vault is the biggest addition to the Arkansas arsenal. In the past 13 years, he has coached nine student-athletes to 26 All-America honors, 11 Southeastern Conference championships and a five of SEC championship records. One of his most recent protégés, Jodi Unger, earned four All-America honors during the 2006 and 2007 seasons and was the NCAA runner-up in the pole vault outdoors as a senior.
In 2008, Katie Stripling carried on the strong pole vault tradition as she became the first Razorback to win both the SEC indoor and outdoor titles in the same season. Her bronze finish at the NCAA Championships picked up an All-America certificate.
Stripling carried over her success from 2008 into the 2009 season. She picked up two additional All-America honors and the 2009 SEC Outdoor individual title. Winning her third conference pole vault title and second outdoors, she cleared 14-5.25. Stripling’s clearance was an Arkansas record and is an SEC meet record.
Prior to Stripling and Unger’s emergence, Compton was best known for his work with former Razorback and 2008 Olympian April Steiner Bennett. A novice in the event when she arrived on campus in the fall of 2000, Steiner Bennett quickly became a household name and was the first woman in SEC history to clear 13 feet in the event indoors. She earned three-consecutive All-America honors indoors and set the standards for all Arkansas vaulters with then-school records exceeding 14 feet, both indoors and out.
Compton’s magic touch is not limited to the vault but to the other disciplines he coaches as well. In the throws, Compton guided Marie LeJour to Arkansas’ first SEC Commissioner’s Trophy by a non-distance runner, as well as its first conference championship in a throwing event. The summer following her breakthrough year, LeJour went on to win the first of her two Canadian National Championships in the discus.
Additionally, Brandy Blackwood, under Compton’s guidance, was one of Arkansas’ most decorated student-athletes and throwers. Blackwood stood out in the crowd with her eighth-place finish in the hammer throw at the 2004 SEC Championships in Oxford, Miss. Her points were vital to Arkansas picking up the 2004 SEC Outdoor Team Championship.
Blackwood holds the Arkansas records in the indoor weight throw and the outdoor hammer throw. She marked a toss of 68-6.5 in the weight throw at the 2005 NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. Her best hammer throw measured 192-9 at the 2005 NCAA Mideast Regional Championships in Bloomington, Ind.
Added to his list of responsibilities in 2002 was the high jump and Compton once again produced. He coached Jessica Johnson to Arkansas school records both indoors and out, breaking the then-oldest school records in the books. With the records in hand, Johnson went after bigger and better things, taking Arkansas’ first-ever All-America honor in the high jump and finishing as national runner-up in the spring of 2003 with a clearance of 6-1.25.
Not to be ignored is Compton’s work with Arkansas’ multi-event personnel. His student-athletes have broken each of the Razorback event records in the multi-event throws and have earned a total of eight All-America honors. In the spring of 2000, Arkansas qualified three heptathletes for the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Not only has Compton been an accomplished coach over the past 20-plus years but he was also a good athlete in his own right. A varsity track athlete at Angelo State, Compton was a national qualifier for the NCAA Division II National Championships in both 1983 and 1984 in the long jump and the sprint relay. Compton earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education and biology from Angelo State in 1985. He has a son, Austin.
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