Supporters of legendary track and field coach show their respect during dedication
After 18 years as the head track and field coach at Cowley College and numerous conference and region titles, the Cowley College Track and Field Complex was renamed the Mark A. Phillips Track and Field Complex during a dedication held Saturday at the facility located at 223 East Pierce. Hundreds of Coach Phillips' former athletes, co-workers, and friends were on hand for the ceremony.
Before the track and field dedication, a Celebration of Life event was held for Phillips inside Cowley College's Robert Brown Theatre. Phillips passed away on April 5 after a courageous battle with ALS.
In Phillips time at Cowley, he led the Tigers to two national championships, 32 Jayhawk Conference titles, 11 Region VI titles, and 14 top-five finishes at the NJCAA National Championships. He also coached 273 All-Americans, nine individual national champions, three national record holders, and one Olympic festival gold medalist.
He has also served as the school's assistant cross country coach and helped the 2010 men's and women's cross country teams capture national championships.
Before coming to Cowley, he spent 12 years at Johnson County Community College, including four years as head coach. During his tenure at Johnson, Phillips played a vital role in a lengthy list of cross country and track team accomplishments.
Before coming to Johnson County, Phillips coached pole vault, long jump, triple jump, heptathlon, and decathlon at Northwest Missouri State University in 1985 and 1986. He coached jumps, sprints, heptathlon, and decathlon as an assistant at Cloud County Community College in 1988 and 1989, where he coached five All-Americans. From the fall of 1989 to the spring of 1991, he was the head cross country and track and field coach at Kansas City Community College, where he turned the program into a national contender in the sprints, coaching 34 All-Americans.
The Northwest Missouri State graduate also saw his share of success as a collegiate student-athlete. He was a pole vaulter/sprinter at Cloud County and Northwest. At Cloud, Phillips was a Region VI champion and a two-time national qualifier in the pole vault.
At Northwest, he set school and Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association records while winning three conference championships in the pole vault and as a member of a school record and National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II national qualifying 4x100-meter relay team. He was a member of the 1982 MIAA conference championship team and qualified for two NCAA Division II national meets in the pole vault.
Those to speak at the track and field dedication were Cowley College assistant athletic director Ali Nittler, current Cowley College head track and field coach Cameron Rieth and Tiger assistant coach Glenwood Edwards, former Cowley College assistant track and field coach Robert Wood, and former Tiger track and field athletes Kendall and Parker Ray, who now serves as an assistant coach at Cowley.
Phillips' wife, Naomi, thanked those in attendance for making it a special day for her family.