Team championships, individual All-Americans, national recruiting prowess and a record of academic achievement have followed Jim VanHootegem (pronounced van-OTT-eh-ghem) at virtually every stop of his coaching career. On July 8, 2013, University of Oklahoma Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Joe Castiglione named VanHootegem to lead the OU track and field/cross country programs. The Sooner head coach came to Norman after serving as a highly successful assistant coach at Texas A&M from 2004-2013.
In his first two seasons with the Sooners, VanHootegem has led the creation of a culture of success for the OU programs. Focused on developing an all-around competitive program, he and his coaching staff have led 18 student-athletes from multiple events to the NCAA Championships in his first two seasons. Most recently, the Sooners finished the 2015 outdoor season with four first-team All-Americans that included two throwers (Liz Herrs, Julia Reedy), one distance runner (Brandon Doughty), and one sprinter (Daye Shon Roberson). Reedy, Doughty, and Garrett Snow are also outdoor school record holders - Reedy in the hammer throw, Doughty in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and Snow in the javelin. The Sooners qualified 32 competitors and two relays to NCAA West Prelims during the 2015 outdoor season, nearly twice as many as the first year.
The 2015 indoor season saw one NCAA qualifier and a school record tied. Reedy shares the mark in the weight throw.
Since VanHootegem arrived, the Sooners have won conference championships in six events. Doughty has won three individually with two in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and one in the indoor 3,000-meter run. He was also part of the 2014 indoor distance medley relay, joining Allen Eke, Alex Deir, and Ethan Baker on the winning quartet. Herrs won the 2014 women's javelin title and Garrett Snow won the men's javelin crown in 2015.
Academic success is a top priority for the Sooner head coach. In his two years as the head coach, 18 student-athletes have earned All-Academic honors from the United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association in track and field and three have picked up similar awards in cross country. Four teams, the 2013 men's cross country, the 2014 women's track and field, the 2014 women's cross country and the 2015 women's track and field, have all earned team academic honors from the USTFCCCA. A total of 39 student-athletes have received Academic All-Big 12 awards in track and field and 13 earned in the award in cross country. Additionally, another 25 student-athletes have earned a spot on the Big 12's Academic All-Big 12 team for rookies.
Sooner performances have steadily improved under VanHootegem's tenure, a credit to his holistic approach to coaching. During the 2014-15 season, VanHootegem, with the help of the Sooners' athletics nutrition staff and the OU Spike Club, opened one of the only refueling stations/nutrition bars, specifically for track and field, in the country. VanHootegem and his staff continue to emphasize nutrition as a key component of improving the all-around performance and recovery of student-athletes. His vision to foster a winning atmosphere has come from his previous experience at very successful programs.
Regarded as one of the nation's most versatile track and field coaches, VanHootegem has been a part of 12 NCAA Division I team championships and 27 conference championships during his collegiate career. He played an integral role in building one of the nation's most dominant track and field programs working with head coach Pat Henry at Texas A&M. The Aggies won seven team NCAA championships, 14 conference championships and produced 22 individual NCAA champions during his time in College Station.
VanHootegem was named the 2009 Men's National Assistant Coach of the Year by the USTFCCCA and was named a 2012 Mondo Regional Assistant Coach of the Year for his work with Texas A&M's jumpers by the USTFCCCA after the NCAA Outdoor Championships. He has displayed a propensity for helping young men and women excel in all areas during their collegiate careers. In total, seven of his student-athletes have earned Arthur Ashe Jr. Sport Scholar honors for their athletic and academic distinction.
In addition to his work at Texas A&M, VanHootegem was involved with another perennial NCAA powerhouse program and coach during his tenure at Arkansas. Helping legendary head coach John McDonnell from 1994-96, the Razorbacks won five NCAA championships and seven SEC titles while producing 55 NCAA All-Americans and 14 individual national champions. At the University of Miami from 2001-04, he was part of staffs that were named Big East Coaching Staff of the Year five times and won five conference championships for the Hurricanes.
Other NCAA Division I coaching experience on VanHootegem's résumé includes stints at San Diego State (2001), Mississippi State (1998-2000), Cal-Irvine (1998) Texas-Pan American (1997), leading that program to a conference title in 1997. He also owns head coaching experience at North Park University in Chicago (1991-94).
VanHootegem's list of accomplished student-athletes at Texas A&M represents a virtual who's who in the track and field. VanHootegem coached eight student-athletes who established Texas A&M school records -- Daphne Fitzpatrick (heptathlon), Julian Reid (triple jump), Yasmine Regis (triple jump), Fabrice Lapierre (long jump), Laura Asimakis (pole vault), Caroline Wolf (indoor high jump), Trinity Otto (indoor heptathlon) and Jena Hemann (indoor pentathlon).
Lapierre won the school's first ever NCAA championship in the long jump in 2012 and also claimed long jump titles in the World Indoor meet and the Commonwealth Games. Reid was the NCAA runner-up in the triple jump, earning a total of nine All-America honors in the long and triple jump. Regis was an NCAA runner-up in the triple jump and claimed five Big 12 triple jump titles. Zuheir Sharif was a seven-time All-America triple jumper under VanHootegem's tutelage, while Tyron Stewart was an NCAA runner-up in the triple jump. In addition, LaQue Moen-Davis was named SEC Freshman of the Year after becoming the first female athlete in Texas A&M history to score in the long and triple jump at the same NCAA Championship.
While at Arkansas, he began coaching former Razorback sprinter Vincent Henderson. Under VanHootegem's watch, Henderson posted the 10th fastest time in the 100 meters (10.00) in U.S. history in 1996. In 1997, Henderson went on to win gold medals in the 100 meters and 400-meter relay at the World University Games in Palermo, Italy.
During his stint at the University of Miami, VanHootegem helped the Hurricanes' women's squad to five Big East titles, including sweeps of the Big East indoor and outdoor team crowns in 2003 and 2004. His long and triple jumpers won six Big East titles, and he helped develop UM's school record holder in the pentathlon and heptathlon. Overall, the Hurricanes established nine school records in field and combined events during VanHootegem's tenure.
Among his pupils were Kareen Clarke, the 2002 NCAA third-place finisher in the triple jump (both indoors and outdoors), and Tabia Charles, who was named the Big East Most Outstanding Field Performer in 2004. Charles broke the Big East outdoor meet record in the triple jump at the 2004 championships.
Before joining the staff at Miami, VanHootegem coached at San Diego State where he guided Aja Frary to the Mountain West Conference heptathlon title and a third-place finish at the 2001 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Her total of 5,753 points at the NCAA Championships set a Mountain West Conference record.
Prior to his stint at San Diego State, VanHootegem coached five NCAA qualifiers at Mississippi State, three USATF Championships/Olympic Trials qualifiers and 18 Southeastern Conference finalists, including Rod Newton, the 2000 SEC champion in the high jump.
A Level II coach and instructor as certified by USA Track and Field, VanHootegem was a seven-time All-American at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., from 1987-90. In 1989 he helped lead North Central College to the NCAA Division III indoor and outdoor national championships. He earned his bachelor of arts degree in physical education from North Central College in 1990.
VanHootegem is married to the former Carmen Melendez, and the couple has three children: Tori, Quin and Olivia.