By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Peter Dalton has seen what the Ohio Valley Conference can offer when it comes to cross country and track and field. With five years under his belt at UT Martin, he helped bring the Skyhawk programs to new heights.
Now Dalton gets the chance to build upon the efforts started by Wayne Angel and his staff as he was announced Friday as Tennessee Tech's newest head coach in cross country and track and field.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank [Tech Director of Athletics] Mark Wilson and [Tennessee Tech] President [Dr. Phil] Oldham for this opportunity," Dalton said. "During my time on campus, it became apparent that the staff was wholeheartedly committed to the student-athletes in every way. I look forward to working with the coaching staff and talented student-athletes, so that we can ensure the athletes graduate with a bright future and a championship-winning experience."
Wilson was certainly excited with the hire and the potential it brings to the Tech program.
"We are thrilled to have Peter join our family here at Tennessee Tech as our head cross country and track and field coach," he said. "He's been a head coach at two other institutions and has tremendous experience. We're excited about his leadership and we really think he will build upon the foundation that Coach Angel left here with our program.
"I think his leadership will mesh well with our student-athletes. I think he will really engage our student-athletes and provide them a positive experience, yet push them to be their very best athletically, academically and in the community."
The Tech AD said the thing that caught his eye was how he interacted with the staff and the student-athletes, as well as Dalton's own experience that can help him relate well with the Golden Eagle student-athletes in the program.
"Peter is a very personable gentleman," Wilson said. "I love his experiences as an international student-athlete coming to the United States. I think that will really help him in recruiting international student-athletes, but I also appreciated that he will focus on in-state and local recruiting in the state of Tennessee."
It's a great fit for a Tech program that has improved steadily in past years, winning the last two OVC Women's Indoor Track and Field championships, the 2018 OVC Women's Outdoor Track and Field championship, as well as putting together its best finishes in both men's and women's cross country in recent years.
When Angel left for his new post at Northern Colorado, there were still plenty of talented student-athletes on the Tennessee Tech roster, ready to continue that growth.
"We have great student-athletes as part of the program," Wilson said. "We think Peter can find young men and young women to complement our current student-athletes and continue to build the programs."
Under Dalton's direction, UTM produced a pair of OVC champions and All-Americans in Ann Asipan and Edwin Kurgat. Asipan won the 2015 and 2016 OVC cross country individual championship, then became an NCAA Regional qualifier in the program's first outdoor season, setting a school-record 16:06 in the 5K.
Kurgat won the OVC men's individual cross country title in 2017, then finished 21st in the NCAA Championship. He still holds UT Martin's program bests in the 8K (23:41.0) and 10 K (29:44.0), as well as the indoor and outdoor 5K marks.
In his four seasons at UTM at the OVC Championships, Dalton saw the men's cross country team improve from a 10th place finish up to 5th just two years later and the women's cross country team improve from 11th in 2014 to fifth in 2016 and 2017.
Those teams also showed success in the NCAA South Regionals as the women's team finished 12th in 2016, the men 13th in the 2017 meet.
He also oversaw tremendous growth with UTM's track and field program as the roster grew and the Skyhawks started racking up numerous program bests. During the 2019 track season, the Skyhawks won four events at the men's indoor championship, including the conference's fourth fastest time ever in the distance medley relay, while the team also shattered seven school records. During the outdoor season, UTM also broke three school records – the men's 110m hurdles and 4x100m, as well as the women's high jump.
Dalton, a native of Ireland, was an outstanding runner himself. He competed as part of the D.S.D. Athletic Club, winning eight consecutive national team titles and finished third in the European Junior Clubs Cross Country Championships. He earned notoriety as he won Ireland's first international victory at the British and Irish Mountain Running Championships, then finished 21st in the World Championships.
Dalton also has a tremendous coaching pedigree, following in the footsteps of his father, who was a seven-time Irish National team manager for the World Champions. He also learned from Irish Olympians Noel Berkeley and Gerry McGrath.
He then came to the United States as a student-athlete, competing for East Tennessee State and NCAA Hall of Famer Dave Walker. In his four-year career in cross country and track and field, he helped lead the Buccaneers to the team highest Atlantic Sun Conference finish in 12 seasons, as well as the inaugural Atlantic Sun Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship title.
During his time in Johnson City, the two-time team captain was a regular fixture on all-conference and all-academic teams for cross country and track and field and was named ETSU's MVP for back-to-back years.
After graduation, Dalton spent seven years at King University, leading the men's and women's cross country teams during his entire tenure, then overseeing the school's track and field program from 2010 to 2012. During that time, he helped oversee the program's transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II, guiding the King University women's cross country team to a second-place finish at the NCAA Southeast Regional, the first team at the institution to qualify for an NCAA Championship event.
During his time there, Dalton led King University to seven Conference Carolinas championships in cross country and track and field, then sent three different teams and individuals to NCAA competition.