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Arizona names Bernard Lagat as cross country head coach, is ‘moving quickly’ in soccer search

arizona-wildcats-bernard-lagat-cross-country-soccer-tony-amato-updates-search-2021 Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Bernard Lagat has been promoted to head coach of the Arizona cross country, the school announced Wednesday.

The 46-year-old Kenyan-American was one of three interim coaches for the cross country program this past season after previous head coach James Li retired in November 2020.

Lagat will also remain as a track and field assistant coach.

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to coach the cross country and track & field programs here at the University of Arizona,” Lagat said. “I have lived and trained in Tucson for almost twenty years and I truly believe this is the best place for a runner to train year-round. I am excited to pass my experiences to the next generation of Wildcats.”

A five-time Olympian and two-time medalist, Lagat entered coaching at the tail end of a prolific athletic career. He owns the American indoor record in the 1,500-meter and mile runs and the outdoor marks in the 1,500m, 3,000m and 5,000m.

“It is an incredible honor to have one of the world’s all-time great runners lead our storied distance program here at Arizona,” Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Fred Harvey said. “Bernard is a true legend in the world of distance running and his knowledge and personality will draw the best runners in the world to the University of Arizona. Historically, we have one of the best distance programs in America, and I believe Bernard will take us to that level.”

Lagat was an 11-time All-American at Washington State, where he won three NCAA individual championships. He graduated from the school in 2000 with a degree in management information systems.

Soccer coaching update

Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke said the school is “moving quickly” in its search for a new head soccer coach and that the vacancy has drawn an “abundance of interest” from a “full pool of candidates.”

Former head coach Tony Amato was hired away by Florida in late May after eight strong seasons with the Wildcats that included five NCAA Tournament appearances and zero losing seasons. The 2021 campaign begins in mid-August, so Arizona has to expedite the search more than usual.

“It’s a very unique time because of us playing at a non-traditional time, so you’re out of that normal circuit that you would normally be doing in December, so it’s different,” Heeke said.

Paul Nagy, Caitlin Lowe’s husband and Amato’s top assistant from 2014 to 2020, is not expected to pursue the position.