Matt Sparks
    Matt Sparks

    Hometown:
    Noblesville, Ind.

    High School:
    Noblesville

    Last College:
    Ohio State

    Position:
    Head Coach

    Experience:
    12th season (2014)

    Alma Mater:
    Indiana


    11/27/2013

    Eileen Schweiss named Lincoln student laureate

    Schweiss, a senior cross country and track student-athlete, holds a 3.935 GPA in mechanical engineering.

    11/15/2013

    Saluki women finish fourth, men 11th at NCAA Midwest Regional

    Kristen Levi (20th) and Kelley Gallagher (21st) both earned All-Midwest Region honors.

    11/14/2013

    Salukis to compete at NCAA Midwest Regional on Friday

    The men's 10K will begin at noon, and the women's 6K will start at 1:15 p.m.

    11/05/2013

    Salukis earn seven cross country MVC Scholar-Athlete honors

    Seven cross country MVC Scholar-Athletes are the most in a single season in SIU history.

    11/02/2013

    Saluki men repeat as MVC Champions, Saluki women win first title since 1992

    This is the first time since 1989 that the same school has swept the MVC cross country championships (Illinois State), and only the second time since 1987 that the same head coach has won both titles (Wichita State, John Kornelson).

    11/15/2013

    MVC Cross Country Championships

    Photos from the SIU sweep of the Missouri Valley Cross Country Championships on Nov. 2, 2013 in Des Moines, Iowa.

    Email Cross Country/Distance Coach Matt Sparks

    Matt Sparks enters his 12th season at SIU in 2013-14 as both the middle distance and distance track coach and the head coach of the cross country program.

    A native of Noblesville, Ind., Sparks has been at SIU since 2002, starting out as the head women's cross country coach and women's distance track coach until the track and field programs were combined in 2004.

    Since, Sparks has been head men's and women's cross country coach and head men's and women's distance coach for Saluki track.

    Sparks has led a resurgence in Saluki cross country not seen since the days of legendary coaches Bill Cornell and Lew Hartzog. In his first season in charge of the combined program, Sparks led the Saluki men to a share of the Missouri Valley Conference championship (the first for SIU in nine years) and in 2007 and 2008 the Saluki men repeated as MVC champs -- also for the first time in a decade. Just last season Sparks earned his fourth men's title with a decisive win that included five All-MVC runners in the top-ten.

    The women's program only has one MVC title (1992), but under Sparks the Saluki women have consistently competed among some of the country's best teams in the MVC. During his first four seasons at SIU (2003-06), the Saluki women did not finish worse than third in the Valley and finished as the runner-up three times in that time period. In 2012, the Saluki women finished third -- their best finish since 2006.

    Sparks graduated from Noblesville High School in 1992 where he was a three-time top-five finisher in the state cross country meet and a four-time All-Indiana track and field recipient.

    As a student-athlete at his alma mater Indiana University, Sparks was a consistent scorer at the Big Ten Championships on the track. In 1996, he narrowly missed qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., running a time of 14:12.82 in the 5000 meter run. All four years he spent in Bloomington, Sparks was a top-three runner for the Hoosier cross country team. He gained valuable experience working with four-time national champion and American record holder Bob Kennedy and Hall of Fame coach Sam Bell.

    Sparks first started coaching at IU as a graduate assistant and volunteer assistant for three seasons. He played a key role in the recruitment and development of many cross country and track and field athletes for the Hoosiers. Additionally, he was part of the coaching staff of the women's Hoosiers team that won both the indoor and outdoor Big Ten Championships in 2000. Prior to joining the Salukis, Sparks enjoyed a successful two-year stint at Ohio State as the head women's cross country coach and women's distance coach alongside future Saluki coaches Connie Price-Smith and John Smith from 2000-02. The Lady Buckeye distance crew set school records in the 3000m steeplechase and the distance medley relay under Sparks' direction.

    Since coming to Southern in 2002, Saluki cross country under Sparks has consistently been one of the top squads in the highly-competitive Missouri Valley. In addition to his four team championships, Sparks has two All-Americans (Jeff Schirmer, 2008-09), four MVC champions (Mohamed Mohamed, 2006; Jeff Schirmer, 2007-08; Dan Dunbar, 2010), and five national qualifiers -- the most recent finalist being Brian Dixon in 2012 (143rd).

    On the track, Sparks has had similar success with his distance runners -- who have contributed to some of the best Saluki track and field teams in school history. In 12 seasons Sparks has coached 51 MVC champions, 125 All-MVC performers, five MVC Most Valuable Track Athletes and five NCAA finals qualifiers. The Saluki men captured their first championship in 20 years indoors in 2012, due in large part to Sparks' MVC champion distance medley relay team and the individual efforts of five-time MVC champion Zach Dahleen.

    In addition to the athletic accomplishments his runners have achieved, Sparks has led one of the most successful academic programs at SIU and in the MVC. His cross country teams have consistently achieved top-20 GPAs nationally and his student-athletes have earned numerous awards for their academic efforts. From 2002-09, Sparks' women's teams achieved Academic All-America status, with the 2003 squad notching the second-highest GPA (3.61) in the country. In 2010, his men's team returned the favor with the second-highest GPA nationally at 3.60.

    Across both track and cross country, Sparks has accumulated 113 total MVC Scholar-Athletes honorees. In fact, he owns 66 of SIU's 126 (52.4 percent) track and field Scholar-Athletes accumulated during his time in Carbondale (2002-present). In addition, every MVC Elite 18 award that SIU track and field has earned have all been Sparks distance runners.

    Sparks graduated from IU in 1997 with an education degree in general science and biology, and he completed his master's in applied sports science at IU in 1999.

    Sparks and his wife, Emily, reside in Carbondale with their son, Samuel, and daughter, Eliza.

    Career Notes (Track and Cross Country):
    • Led the Saluki men's cross country team to four MVC titles (2004, 2007, 2008, 2012)
    • Guided the Saluki women cross country team to back-to-back MVC runner-up finishes
    • Coached 51 MVC Champions
    • Coached 125 All-MVC performers
    • Five MVC Most Valuable Track Athletes
    • Four MVC Cross Country Athletes of the Year
    • Coached 113 MVC Scholar-Athletes
    • Coached 10 NCAA Finals Qualifiers
    • Has qualified an SIU athlete in every distance event for the NCAA Regional meet
    • Two Cross Country All-Americans (Jeff Schirmer, 2008-09) and two outdoor track second-team All-Americans (Schirmer and Dahleen)
    • Coached ten USATF Junior All-Americans
    • Coached nine cross country teams that have earned Academic All-American status. His 2003 women's squad (3.61) and his 2010 men's squad (3.6) had the second-highest GPAs in the nation
    • Coached one USATF Junior National Champion, a World Junior competitor and a Pan Am Junior competitor

    Notable Pupils

    Jeff Schirmer | Southern Illinois, 2006-11
    • Two-time cross country All-American
    • First SIU cross country All-American in 24 years
    • Outdoor track second-team All-American (10,000m, 2011)
    • 19-time MVC Champion
    • 22-time All-MVC performer
    • Four-time MVC MVP
    • All-time MVC record holder in the indoor 5000m (13:53.60) and outdoor 10,000m (28:42.71)
    • All-time SIU record holder in the 10,000m (28:42.71)
    • Only four-time MVC champion of the indoor 5000m
    • Only four-time MVC champion of the outdoor 10,000m
    • Only three-time MVC champion of the indoor 3000m

    Mohamed Mohamed | Southern Illinois, 2005-10
    • 2006 MVC Cross Country Champion
    • 2007 NCAA Cross Country qualifier
    • 2010 MVC 5,000m champion

    Dan Dunbar | Southern Illinois, 2007-12
    • 2010 MVC Cross Country champion
    • 2010 Outdoor MVC champion in 10,000m
    • 2008 USATF Junior Champion in the 10K
    • Finished 19th in 10K at World Junior Championships

    Joe Byrne | Southern Illinois, 2003-05
    • 2005 NCAA qualifier in cross country
    • Three-time All-MVC in cross country
    • Member of 2007 MVC All-Centennial Cross Country team

    Zach Dahleen | Southern Illinois, 2009-present
    • Five-time MVC champion
    • School record holder in mile (4:00.16) and 1500m (3:41.18)
    • 2013 MVC Indoor Most Valuable Track Athlete
    • 2012 outdoor second-team All-American (1500m)

    Brian Dixon | Southern Illinois, 2010-present
    • 2012 NCAA qualifier in cross country (143rd)

    Ty-Nica Davis | Southern Illinois, 2003-06
    • 2006 outdoor NCAA finals qualifier (800m)
    • SIU all-time record holder in indoor 600m (1:30.65), indoor 800m (2:07.65) and outdoor 800m (2:06.31)
    • Four-time MVC champion
    • Finished ninth in the 800m at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2008 (2:03.22)

    Noa Beitler | Southern Illinois, 2001-04
    • Eight-time MVC champion
    • SIU all-time record holder in the mile (4:45.80) and distance medley relay (11:44.48) indoors
    • 2003 outdoor NCAA qualifier
    • Only three-time MVC champion in the outdoor 1500m

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