Alex Smolka - Men's Cross Country Coach (2024)

Alex M. Smolka will be coming into his 21styear at the helm of both the Florida Atlantic University cross country and track and field programs in the fall of 2023. He has been a part of the program from almost the very beginning.

The cross country program started in 1991, and Smolka joined it as an assistant coach in February 1992. He took over as the head cross country coach in August 2001 and became the head coach of the entire program in July 2002. During the 2005-2006 academic year, indoor track & field was added as a women's intercollegiate sport.

During the 2022-23 season, Smolka guided the cross country team to multiple strong finishes, including a first-place win in the Thomas Invitational, a third place finish in the USF Invite, and a fourth place finish in the home FAU Invite.Under Smolka's watch, Casey O'Connor won C-USA Athlete of the Week and Madlen Kappeler finished on the All-Conference USA XC second team.

The track season saw Jessica Lambert win the 800m gold medal for both the indoor and outdoor seasons as well as qualify for the 2023 NCAA South Regionals, the first Owl to do so since 2019.

In 2021-22, Smolka led a very young program throughout the cross country and track & field seasons. During cross country season, Madlen Kappeler made her way on the All-Conference USA XC Third Team after her 21st-place showing at the C-USA Championships, as well as the All-Academic Team for the third consecutive year. The men’s and women’s teams achieved a myriad of personal records throughout the season.

The indoor and outdoor seasons in 2022 ended with 33 FAU top-10 marks and three school records. Jessica Lambert earned the bronze medal in the 800 meters for the second consecutive year at the C-USA Outdoor Championship, where she tallied a personal record of 2:09.31. Cara Simpson came up with points for the Owls at the outdoor championships with a fifth-place finish in the 100 meters (11.71). At the 2022 C-USA Indoor Championship, the distance medley relay team (Casey O’Connor, Erina Teague, Jordan Stevens and Paige Saiz) broke a seven-year school record with a time of 11:59.61.

The 2020-21 season saw the team accomplish several historic finishes. Cross country finished sixth at the 2020 C-USA Championships with 169 points to become the best finish at a C-USA Championship in school history. Kappeler finished the women’s 6K in 11th and Marisha Thompson followed in 20th to earn spots on the All-C-USA Second and Third Team, respectively.

At the 2021 C-USA Indoor Championship, the team finished in seventh for 40 points, which became the best for FAU since joining the conference. Lambert recorded the gold medal in the 800 meters and Anaiis Scheeres captured silver in the high jump, while also breaking the school record (1.69m).

The 2019 cross country season gave everyone a chance to know Kappeler’s name. The redshirt freshman captured 16th and All-C-USA Third Team honors at the C-USA Cross Country Championships to become the first All-Conference XC runner since 2013.

The 2018-19 outdoor track & field slate saw Anne-CatherineWasserandNatalliahWhyte qualify for the NCAA East Regional andWhytebecoming the first FAU runner to qualify for the NCAA Championships.Whytecompeted in the 100 meter dash in Austin, Texas and finished16th overall. Whyte was named an USTFCCCA Second Team All-American and earned C-USA Female Track Athlete of the Year after winning gold in the outdoor 100 meter and indoor 60 and 200 meter dashes. Seven timesthroughout the cross country, indoor and outdoor season an FAU athlete was named C-USA Athlete of the Week.

In 2017-18, FridaThorsåscontinued her streak of reaching the podium in the heptathlon with a second place finish at the C-USA Championship. Crystal McDougle also reached the podium at the outdoor C-USA Championship with a third place finish in 100 meter hurdles.

The year 2016-17 saw that number raise to seven years in a row asThorsås (javelin) and Jamika Glades (100 and 400 meter hurdles) qualified to compete at the NCAA East Regional in Lexington, Kentucky.

In the 2014-15 season, Smolka saw his first indoor and outdoor Conference USA Champions. A freshman at the time, Frida Thorsås won the pentathlon at the C-USA Indoor Championship and claimed victory in the heptathlon at the C-USA Outdoor Championship. Sitia Martinez also won the 400 meter hurdles at the outdoor championship. For the fifth year in a row, the Owls were represented in the 400 hurdles at the NCAA East Preliminary Championship as Martinez qualified for competition. The 4x100 meter relay team also qualified.

Smolka helped develop one of FAU's top hurdlers, Danielle Aromashodu, who was named FAU's Female Student-Athlete of 2013-14, is the school record holder in the 400-meter hurdles and won the Sun Belt Conference Championship in the 400 meter hurdles in each of her first three seasons. Smolka also helped lead her to the 2014 NCAA East Preliminary Championship and she was honored as a member of the Division I All-Academic Track & Field Team by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).

Smolka also coached Friederike"Iki"Feil, who went on to run professionally. Feilholds two FAU school records for cross country in the women's 5K and 6K. She also has the indoor and outdoor track records in the 3000m run and is a part of the 4x800m relay team that holds the women's school record at FAU. In 2011, Feil won a bronze medal in the 3K steeplechase at the German National Championship and went on to sign an endorsem*nt contract with Brooks Shoe Company.

In 2010, the Owls placed second in the Sun Belt Cross Country Championship and placed third in the 2009 indoor championship. FAU never placed lower than fourth at the Atlantic Sun Outdoor Track and Field Championships, finishing third four times. In the school's first season of indoor competition, Smolka's squad placed second at the A-Sun Indoor Track and Field Championships. In 2006-07, FAU's first year in the Sun Belt Conference, the women finished third at the cross country championships and eighth in both the indoor and outdoor track championships.

Additionally, Smolka coached Manny Huerta who is a two-time Olympian in the triathlon. Huerta ran at FAU from 2002-04 and was a 2012 Olympian for Team USA and 2016 Olympian for his native country ofPuerto Rico. Today, Huerta lives in Miami and is a coach.

All told, 43individual Owls have qualified for the NCAA Track and Field Regionals under Smolka. One athlete provisionally qualified for the NCAA Indoor National Championships and the women's cross country team has been ranked as high as 13th in the South Region.

While at Florida Atlantic, Smolka has mentored 88All-Conference outdoor track athletes, 49All-Conference indoor track athletes, 15 cross country All-Conference runners, an USTFCCCA Second Team All-American, C-USA Track Athlete of the Year,outdoor track & field Outstanding Freshman, indoor track & field Outstanding Freshman and Outstanding Indoor track & field athlete of the year. Smolka has also had more than 400 student-athletes make the conference All-Academic Team and four female student-athletes of the year. In addition, all of the individual records for the programs have been set under his supervision.

Smolka grew up in Vienna, Austria, and London, England, and was a three-sport athlete (skiing, soccer and track), competing numerous times in the International School Sports' Tournament (ISST) in various European countries. He then served as the captain for the Hampshire College soccer team while training and competing with the University of Massachusetts track and field team, where he set personal bests in the 400m (48.36 sec.) and 800m (1:53.88). Following college, he competed in triathlons, twice becoming a USA National Team member for the Maccabbiah Games in Israel in 1993 and 2001.

Smolka holds a bachelor's degree in history from Hampshire College (1988), a master's degree in sports and business management from Northeastern University (1992) and a Master of Arts degree in history from FAU (1996). He is a certified R.A.D (Rape Aggression Defense) instructor, a certified professional rescuer/lifeguard and a USATF Level I and II certified coach.

Smolka resides in Boca Raton, Florida, with his wife, Caroline, and their six children: Tevya, Avi, Michaela, Johanna, David and Jacob.

Alex Smolka - Men's Cross Country Coach (2024)
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