As Covenant freshman Micah Sneller sprinted with sweat and determination to win the 2015 USA South cross country championship, Coach Katie Stanford yelled and urged him on at the finish line. Stanford has been coaching cross country at Covenant College for five years and her work bringing a team in transition to victory has earned her the title of USA South Coach of the Year for 2015.
Stanford joined the athletic staff at Covenant College as the head men’s and women’s cross country coach in the spring of 2011. Stanford became Covenant’s third cross country coach in three years during her first season with the Scots, following the departures of former head coaches Debby Vannoy and Scott Williams. “When I came, the cross country program was at a low because of all the coaching changes,” she said.
When Stanford came, Covenant was switching conferences and moving from NAIA to NCAA DIII and was no longer allowed to provide athletic scholarships. “There was not a lot of recruiting going on when I came. I have had to work to rebuild the team in the last four years, and it is still a work in progress.”
As Covenant was still changing conferences, Stanford guided the Scots and Lady Scots to "unofficial" first and second place finishes respectively at the Great South Athletic Conference championship in 2011. In the 2012 season, the women's team once again unofficially won the GSAC championship and two runners won All-GSAC honors.
In 2013, Covenant finally moved into the USA South Athletic Conference. In both 2013 and 2014, the Scots won the USA South title and the Lady Scots secured second place. In 2015, both the Scots and Lady Scots took second place at the conference championship. Both teams made an appearance at the NCAA South Regional meet for the first time in school history.
In the future, Stanford hopes to “bring consistency to the team so that when people come, they run all four years. If our runners commit to running all four years at Covenant, it will help make the team stronger, because the team needs depth and good upper classmen leaders. Currently, we have to completely rely on the freshman.” Stanford wants to “make a name for Covenant cross country and establish it as a solid program in the Chattanooga community, our conference, and our region.”
Stanford appreciates getting to work in a community of Christians at Covenant. “I enjoy the people I get to work with and the people I get to coach.” However, she wishes she had a higher commitment level from her athletes and finds that many students do not take athletics seriously at a DIII school. “I just want my team to love the sport and want to grow the sport at Covenant as much as I do,” Stanford said.
In ninth grade, Stanford first went out for track as a sprinter. “I didn’t discover my love for distance until I joined the cross country team my junior year,” she said. Stanford attended Samford University and earned a BA in Political Science in 2003. She competed for the Samford Bulldogs in cross country and indoor and outdoor track from 1998 to 2003 and twice earned All-Conference track honors during that time.
Stanford is Level 1 certified under the USA Track and Field coaching education program. She went to graduate school at the University of West Georgia and was a graduate assistant coach for the woman’s cross country and track teams. From there, she went on to be the men’s and women’s assistant cross country coach and head recruiter at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for four years. Finally, she was the cross country and distance track coach for Chattanooga's Notre Dame High School from 2010-2011 before coming to Covenant.
She currently lives on Lookout Mountain, Ga. with her husband Trey and her two children, Taylor and Noah.