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Curt Kraft enters his ninth season as the director of the East Carolina men's and women's track and field/cross country squads. His appointment at ECU officially ended a 14-year affiliation with the University of Nevada, where he spent 10 honor-producing seasons as head women's track and field coach.
Since his arrival in Greenville, Kraft has rewritten the East Carolina track and field record book as 20 women's outdoor records, 19 women's indoor records, 13 men's indoor records, and 12 men's outdoor records have fallen. Additionally, Kraft boasts 11 All-America selections, numerous All-Conference members, several NCAA Regional and National Qualifiers, one conference championship and a C-USA Coach-of-the-Year honor.
2013 was a successful year for Kraft's squads as the indoor season saw senior Tynita Butts finish second in the NCAA Championships after matching her career-best and ECU school-record mark of 1.90-meters (6-02.75) in the high jump for her fifth All-America selection. Montrell Morrow made his second appearance in as many years at the NCAA Indoor Championship in the men's weight throw after winning the same event at the C-USA Indoor Championships. Additionally, Butts, along with Joseph Samuels and Kayla Padgett, brought home gold at the C-USA Indoor Championships. Following the indoor season, Butts and Morrow were named C-USA Female and Male Athlete of the Year, respectively, by the league office.
Kraft's squad continued its dominance throughout the outdoor season as the Pirates set five school records at the C-USA Outdoor Championships to go along with a number of personal bests. ECU went on to send three student-athletes to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Padgett, Cameron Hudson and Lauren Lubarski. Hudson represented the Pirates in the men's long jump and collected First Team All-America accolades in his first-ever appearance at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships after earning a fourth-place finish with a career-best and ECU school-record tying mark of 7.86-meters (25-09.50). Under Kraft's tutelage, Hudson went on to place fourth at the USA Track & Field Championships in the long jump as he registered another mark of 7.86-meters (25-09.50).
The 2012 season was a banner year for the program, as the women's squad won the program's first-ever Conference USA title by defeating defending champion and nationally-ranked UCF at the C-USA Indoor Championships. Kraft was named C-USA indoor Coach-of-the-Year as a result. He also produced eight All-America performers, including the third and fourth All-America accolades for junior Tynita Butts who finished third in the high jump at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. It was the highest finish at the national championship for a female in program history. A program single-season 21 Pirate athletes qualified for the NCAA East Preliminary Round from which three moved on to the national outdoor finals.
The women nearly pulled off a sweep of the indoor and outdoor league titles, but finished second at the C-USA Outdoor Championships. It was still the highest-ever result for the ladies at the outdoor league meet. The men finished just six points behind second-place UTEP.
In terms of individual recognition, Butts earned United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association indoor and outdoor Southeast Region Field Athlete of the Year honors while senior Dennis Aliotta was named the Conference USA Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year - a first for the program. Additionally, Aliotta and sophomore Kathryn Warner earned spots on the C-USA All-Academic Team.
While at Nevada, Kraft produced track and field teams which consistently were among the top 25 of the National Collegiate Division I Team Power Rankings. In addition, he headed a Wolf Pack program which set new school records in every event for track and field, and cross country since 1995.
Kraft earned consecutive Western Athletic Conference Coach-of-the-Year selections in 2003 and 2004 while leading the Wolf Pack to a pair of WAC Indoor Track & Field Championships. His success in 2003, which included the school's first-ever WAC title, also earned him NCAA Division I Mountain Region Coach-of-the-Year honors which preceded another milestone in his career - guiding Nevada to a conference cross country championship the next fall.
For the second consecutive season, Nevada took three individual titles at the 2003 indoor championships. Erin Kelly broke her own WAC record to defend her pentathlon title, Chanika Corley won the 60-meter hurdles and the distance relay team (Julie Hinton, Kali Baker, Lindsay Roberson, Nicole McRae) also brought home gold. Additionally, Stephanie Tietjen won the lone outdoor event in the shot put. In addition to the titles, the 2003 team also added six new individual school records to the list. Erin Seward set a standard with her 17:04.03 mark in the 5,000-meters and Shante Winters-Frazier in the 60-meters with a 7.66 showing. Also, Caira Hane added a new distance of 184-03.00 in the hammer throw to the books and Tietjen broke shot put records in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. McRae also bested her own indoor record in the 800-meters.
Kraft led the Wolf Pack to top-20 dual track meet rankings by the Track and Field Coaches' Association for five consecutive years as Nevada enjoyed its peak position at No. 5 after winning the WAC title. Additionally, three Wolf Pack athletes experienced competition at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Ali McKnight competed in the meet twice, taking second in the heptathlon in 1995, while Jenni Ashcroft finished seventh in the pole vault (2002) and Sam Young took 15th in the javelin throw (2003). Ashcroft was named NCAA Woman-of-the-Year in 2002 for the state of Nevada due to her fine showing that season.
Prior to Nevada's move into the WAC, Kraft was selected as the 2000 Big West Conference Coach-of-the-Year after piloting the Wolf Pack to the league's outdoor championship. Off the track, Kraft's squad compiled the nation's second-highest grade point average (3.20) during the same season.
Kraft produced all 33 individual conference champions in Nevada program history, including three which advanced to the NCAA Division I National Championships. He served as Nevada's assistant men's and women's track and field coach from 1991 to 1994, playing a pivotal role in the recruitment of athletes which claimed the 1993 Big West Conference Men's Track Championship.
Kraft began his collegiate coaching career at the University of Nebraska in 1989 where he worked with all facets of the Cornhuskers' Big Eight Conference program, including distance, sprint-hurdles and all vertical and horizontal jump athletes. In 1990, Kraft served as the assistant meet director for the Junior Olympics in Lincoln, Neb., and worked alongside 1984 Olympic Throws Coach Ken Shannon at the Northwest Sports Track and Field Camp.
Kraft's career started as an athlete, running hurdles in both high school and college. He graduated from Minot State (N.D.) University with a dual major in physical education and social science in 1984. He then received a master's degree in education at the University of Nebraska, where he also spent two years as a graduate assistant, coaching the Cornhuskers' women's track and field program.
He and wife Nancy are the parents of two adult daughters Alicia and Kayla.
The Curt Kraft File
Minot State (N.D.), `84
Bachelor of Science - Physical Education/Social Science (Dual Major)
Masters of Education
1984-89: Carrington High School - Head Coach
1989-91: Nebraska - Graduate Assistant Coach
1991-94: Nevada - Assistant Coach
1994-2005: Nevada - Head Coach
2005-06: East Carolina - Women's Head Coach
2006-present: East Carolina - Head Coach/Program Director
Career Awards and Accolades
East Carolina NCAA Participants Under Kraft
Wife: Nancy (elementary school teacher)
Children: Alicia Kraft (social worker), Kayla Kraft (dental hygienist)