John Fortune places third in the men's hammer throw
Coach Will Blackburn is entering his 15th season at the University of Houston. In September, he was promoted to Associate Head Coach by head coach Leroy Burrell and the athletics department. Blackburn coaches Houston's field events as well as coordinates the team's travel and recruiting.
During his tenure at the University of Houston, Blackburn has developed many athletes from high school throwers and jumpers into conference champions and nationally respected athletes.
In February of 2014, Blackburn coached Cougar alum Chris Carter to a victory the USATF National Championship in the triple jump with a jump of 17.18m, a feat which landed him a spot in the World Championships in Sopot Poland. In the college ranks, Blackburn coached John Horton to the NCAA Division I Championships in the long jump where the sophomore earned USTFCCCA All-America honors.
Blackburn also helped lead freshman Cameron Cornelius to a win in the inaugural American Athletic Conference Indoor Championship in shot. In the outdoor, Cornelius again claimed the American Athletic Conference title and was the only freshman in NCAA Track and Field to throw 60 feet in the shot put 18.36m (60-3).
Blackburn saw three of his athletes post top-five throws in school history during the 2013-14 season. For the women, Justine Price recorded the second best discus mark in school history with a throw of 51.76m (169'-10"), while Nicole Benton threw the fifth-longest hammer throw in school history with an 18.19m (59'-8.25") throw. On the men's side Damon Thompson recorded the second best weight throw in school history with a makr of 18.08m (59'-4")
Blackburn, who over the past 15 seasons has coached six All-Americans and 28 Conference Champions. In addition to coaching, Blackburn has recruited a National Champion, 18 All-Americans and 25 Conference USA Champions.
In recent seasons, Blackburn developed thrower, Rick Fenton, into a school-record holder and Conference USA Championships medalist. In Fenton's first season as a Cougar, he competed for a spot in the conference championship in the hammer throw and finished in the top 10. From there, he would improve tremendously, medaling in four conference meets and settling in the top-five of the programs all-time list. In the 2012-13 indoor season, Fenton took second place in the weight throw. Fenton's 2012-13 performance of 18.68m broke the men's indoor record. During the outdoor season, the San Clemente, Calif., native claimed gold in the hammer throw at the C-USA Championship and broke the school record with a throw of 65.69m (215-6). In 2013-14, he coached Fenton to a record breaking finish. Fenton was the 2013 Conference USA Outdoor Champion in the Hammer Throw (217 feet), a NCAA regional qualifer and competed in the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the Hammer Throw. He also is now the school record holder in the Weight Throw and Hammer Throw.
Along with Fenton, Blackburn coached John Fortune to his first conference outdoor shot put title and long jumper Isaiah Sweeney to his third title in four years. He has also coached jumper John Horton to a repeat performance in the triple jump at the C-USA Indoor Championships. Horton went on to Nationals to be named All-America Second Team.
Blackburn has also coached the women's indoor weight throw record holder, Emily Nnokwam, who set the record during the 2012-13 indoor season with a throw of 18.99m at the Conference USA meet. Additionally, Blackburn has coached all of the top-five women's performers in the indoor weight throw at Houston, including Amanda Villanueva, Shayla Bowman and Nicole Benton, and numorus Regional qualifiers, such as Alicia Perkins and Ngozi Onwumere whom qualified in the long jump during the 2013 outdoor season.
During the 2010-11 season, Chris Carter, one of the best triple jumpers in program history, took home the Conference USA Indoor and Outdoor triple jump championships and an outdoor title in the long jump. Carter went on to qualify in the triple at the indoor and outdoor NCAA Championships, where he placed fourth at both meets to earn All-America nods.
The 2009 season was one of the most successful track and field seasons in Cougar history thanks to the leadership of Blackburn. The Cougars had 12 student-athletes qualify for the NCAA Midwestern Regional after standout performances at the Conference USA Championships. Two of those student-athletes advanced to the NCAA Championships.
Carter qualified for the NCAA Championships and finished in the top-10 that season. Thrower and Heptathlete Brittani Williams had a standout performance at the NCAA Regionals, placing sixth in the javelin throw to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Williams went on to finish 13th at the Championships with a throw of 48.04m. Houston long jumpers, Ed Turner, Lamar Delaney and Isaiah Sweeney, swept the top-three places at the conference championships. Carter, Turner, Delaney, and Sweeney continued their dominance as all four again placed among the top-seven at the Conference USA Outdoor Championships.
Similar results were to be expected in the triple jump and the Cougars under Blackburn's tutelage did not disappoint. Chris Carter won the C-USA Outdoor triple jump while two other Cougars placed in the top five. Carter's title ensured him of the C-USA Male Athlete of the Year award. Shaunda McPherson was the female champion at the C-USA Indoor Championships while Dayo Ogunniyi and Tai'shea Reese finished in fourth and sixth place respectively.
The discus throwers showed their muscle as four Cougars, Matt Dudley, Brandon Hubbard, Andy Tackett and Sidney Flores, locked down four of the top seven places at the C-USA Outdoor Championships. Hubbard was a Regional qualifier and finished 20th at the NCAA Championships. Hubbard was also selected as an All-American Strength and Conditional Athlete of the Year. As a true freshman, Dudley would finish in second-place in the discus and shot put events at the C-USA Indoor Championships. Kierra Pulliam would establish the second longest shotput in Houston history with her throw of 14.95 meters at the Rice All-Comers Meet.
During the 2008 season, Blackburn witnessed a pair of his throwers break school records; as Brandon Hubbard and William Krokey set new benchmarks in the weight throw and the hammer throw. Blackburn also coached a group of talented freshmen jumpers, including Chris Carter, who won the triple jump and Ed Turner, who won the long jump at the conference indoor championships. Turner would garner C-USA Indoor Freshman of the Year.
In 2007, Blackburn coached Brandon Hubbard, James Lee, Ashley Bryant, Quin'shundolyn McPherson and Dayo Ogunniyi. Hubbard set a school record in the hammer during the outdoor season, while Lee earned a C-USA Championship in the discus and qualified for the NCAA Regional Qualifier. He also finished in the top-five in the Houston record books.
In her first year as a Cougar, Bryant was an NCAA Qualifier and finished in the top-five of the all-time list in the discus and hammer. McPherson and Ogunniyi were NCAA Regional Qualifiers. Along with qualifying for Regionals, McPherson was named the 2007 C-USA Indoor Freshman of the Year. Blackburn also tutored Houston record holder Amanda Villanueva in 2007. Villanueva set a Cougar record in the weight throw at the 2007 Conference USA Indoor Championships with a throw of 61-1.25.
In 2006, Blackburn coached Caresir Hamilton to a Conference USA Indoor and Outdoor Championship in the triple jump. Hamilton also set a school record in the triple jump with a leap of 43-4.50. Jonathan Reeves earned the Conference USA Outdoor Championship in the shot put with a throw of 62-3 and was also a conference champion in the discus with a throw of 189-0. Reeves also qualified for the NCAA Championship in the shot put.
Houston Track and Field saw great success in 2005. The program claimed conference titles across the board in men's and women's indoor and outdoor championships. Five of Blackburn's throwers medaled in the indoor and outdoor seasons. Jonathan Reeves would win his first championship in the outdoor discus after transferring from Arkansas, before going on to win a championship again in the 2006 outdoor shot put. Between those two years, Reeves qualified for the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships twice, finishing seventh and 11th.
In 2005, Blackburn also coached the C-USA runner-up in the men's shot put and a NCAA qualifier in the men's discus. He assisted three of the school's top-five women's throwers in the weight throw and hammer, including Shayla Bowman, the school record holder in the outdoor hammer throw.
During the 2004 season, Blackburn coached Vincent Marshall to the Indoor Conference USA Championships in the triple jump and runner-up at the Outdoor Championships en route to qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
Blackburn began his coaching career after throwing discus for the University of Houston Track and Field team. He won a C-USA conference championship as a competitor for Houston. Due to an injury, Blackburn had to sit out the 1998 season. Blackburn began his coaching career in 2000.
In addition to his coaching duties at the University of Houston, Blackburn has coached the Houston Gold Masters Club. Masters athletes are between the ages of 30 and 85 years old. Blackburn has tutored Linda Douglas, Joe Summerlin and Jean Vander Cruyssen.
Born in El Paso, Texas, Blackburn earned his bachelor's degree in Education from the University of Houston. He was a member of the Dean's List, Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll and he received an endowed athletics scholarship. He received a master's in Sports Administration and teaches in the Health, Human Performance and Kinesiology Department at Houston.
Blackburn married the former Geri Blankenship of Crosby, Texas in 2004. The couple has two children, two sons Hudson and Hawke David and a daughter Haven.