Director of Track and Field/Cross Country
Sixth Season (Track and Field), 19th Season (Cross Country)
Humboldt State, 1983
After coaching the men’s cross country team to a seventh straight (10th overall) Big West Conference championship, Mark Conover was named Cal Poly’s Director of Track and Field and Cross Country on Dec. 30, 2009.
Conover is currently in his 19th season at Cal Poly and has led the Mustangs to 14 appearances at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, with seven of those coming as a full team. He has coached the men’s cross country squad to four top-20 national finishes, including 13th in 2003, 10th in 2004, 13th in 2006 and 11th in 2007.
“I am honored to be selected as the Director of Track and Field and Cross Country at Cal Poly,” Conover said. “To be in the position to lead the program into the next decade is a coach’s dream. Cal Poly offers everything that is necessary when it comes to having a successful program due to its prestigious academic standing and the ‘learn-by-doing’ experience that is offered to the student-athlete in a setting that is second to none.”
“I look forward to providing a positive environment that will allow the student-athlete to obtain academic and athletic excellence,” he added. “I also look forward to recruiting and coaching bright, energetic and passionate young men and women who seek the outstanding education and athletic opportunity that Cal Poly offers.”
Conover has been named the Big West Coach of the Year a combined 15 times on either the men's or women's sides, as well as the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association West Region Coach of the Year three times (in 2000, 2003 and 2011).
During his tenure at Cal Poly, Conover has coached a pair of two-time All-Americans in both track and field and cross country, and a third All-American in cross country in 2012. He has also coached 49 NCAA West Region men’s and women’s track and field qualifiers and 39 individual All-West Region men and women in cross country.
Conover also has coached 43 conference champions in track and field and cross country, produced four Big West Track Athletes of the Year, seven Cross Country Athletes of the Year, two Freshmen of the Year in track and seven Freshmen of the Year in cross country.
He has coached men and women to 44 top-10 all-time performances in Cal Poly track history, including the school record-holders in the men’s 5,000 and 10,000 meters and the women’s steeplechase.
The women’s cross country team, which he assisted before assuming full duties, had its highest conference finish in eight years in 2009 (third). The Mustangs also earned USTFCCCA All-Academic status in 2007 and 2013, and won the 2004-05 and 2007-08 Big West team GPA awards.
“Cal Poly has a longstanding tradition of excellence in the sports of track and field and cross country, with numerous All-Americans as well as alumni who went on to become Olympians,” Conover said. “That fact, combined with the number of successful coaches who came before me and the number of alumni who are currently successful high school and collegiate coaches, truly make it special to be the Director of Track and Field and Cross Country at Cal Poly. The program has a special place in the hearts of many alumni and fans of the sport who have been associated with Cal Poly.”
Conover coached the Cal Poly Male Athlete of the Year in 2007 and the Female Athlete of the Year in 2013.
Conover was a nine-time All-American distance runner at Humboldt State, and earned the rare distinction of becoming an All-American in all three NCAA divisions. He was the national champion in both the 10,000 meters and cross country in 1981.
In 1988, Conover was the Olympic Trials champion in the marathon and went on to run at the Seoul Olympics. He competed professionally from 1984-96 and was a four-time Olympic Trials qualifier.
A graduate of Miramonte High School in Orinda, Calif., Conover earned his bachelor’s degree in natural resource planning and interpretation at Humboldt State in 1983 and a master’s degree at Cal Poly in city and regional planning in 1989.
Conover, who survived a battle with Hodgkin’s disease in 1993 and 1994, was inducted into the Humboldt State University Hall of Fame in 1993.
Prior to his coaching stint at Cal Poly, Conover was an assistant planner with San Luis Obispo County from 1989-92 and editor of a magazine, The Runner’s Schedule, from 1992-95. He served internships in the planning departments for the city of San Luis Obispo in 1985 and Morro Bay in 1987.
Mark lives with his wife, Kelly, in San Luis Obispo. They had triplets in May of 2007 — two girls, Audrey and Marley, and a boy, Cordell.
Danny Williams serves as the program’s recruiting coordinator and strength and development coach, in addition to his day-to-day track and field responsibilities.
The 1978 Occidental College graduate brings to Cal Poly a vast expertise and experience ranging from collegiate to international competitions.
Prior to coming to Cal Poly, Williams served as the USA Men’s Manager at the Pan American Junior Championships (in 2005) and as the head coach of the Guatemala National Track and Field Team (2002-03).
He also served as the head coach for the USA Women’s World Indoor Championships Team in 2001, as an assistant with the World Championships Team in 1999 (in Seville, Spain) and as the head coach for the Women’s Junior Pan American Championships Team in 1997 (Havana, Cuba).
In 2003, he became the USATF Women’s Sprint Development Coordinator.
At South Carolina State from 1992-94, Williams coached All-American high jumper Ken Washington. During his tenure at SCSU, he also served as an assistant on the World Junior Championships Team and the U.S. Olympic Festival Team.
Before joining the SCSU staff, he coached five All-Americans and 32 conference champions while at UC Irvine from 1981-92, as well as two national champions and the national record-holder in the men’s high jump at his alma mater from 1978-79.
In 1994, he formed Ballistic Sports Development in Norwalk, Conn., where he developed training concepts for professional athletes and corporate executives.
Vertical Jumps, Multi Events
Jenni Ashcroft, a former All-American at Nevada, came to Cal Poly in 2012 after spending the previous six seasons on the staff at Oregon.
Ashcroft coaches the Mustangs’ pole vaulters, high jumpers and the multi events.
“I am pleased to have Jenni join the Cal Poly staff,” Conover said. “She brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to the program that will positively impact the performance level of our student-athletes.”
“Jenni is an excellent coach and mentor who understands the niche we have at Cal Poly with academics,” Conover added. “Her level of expertise across several event areas, along with her proven success at Oregon and Wichita State, will allow the team to continually strive for excellence as we move forward.”
Ashcroft served as an assistant at Oregon from 2006-12. During her tenure with the Ducks, she coached four individual national champions and 22 All-Americans.
Prior to coaching at Oregon, Ashcroft spent four seasons (2003-06) on the Wichita State staff, first as a graduate assistant and then as an assistant coach.
Over that span, in the pole vault, long jump and triple jump, the Shockers recorded six Missouri Valley Conference titles, earned 26 all-conference accolades, set 11 program records and seven MVC records, and made four NCAA Championships appearances.
The graduate of Nevada earned All-America honors at the 2002 NCAA Championships. She was also a pole vault champion in the Big West and Western Athletic conferences, a 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier, and was named the State of Nevada NCAA Woman of the Year.
Ashcroft earned her degree in secondary education at Nevada and added a master’s in sports administration at Wichita State in 2005. The Sheridan High School product was an Oregon state pole vault champion and 2A state meet record-holder.
UC Davis, 2004
Priscilla Bayley joined the Mustangs as an assistant coach in the summer of 2014.
Bayley spent the past three years coaching and serving as the recruiting coordinator for the Harvard women's teams.
In November of 2013, she led the Crimson to their first national ranking (No. 27). That came a season after another milestone, when Harvard qualified for its first national cross country championship meet on a team basis since 1983.
In track, Harvard won back-to-back indoor Ivy League titles in 2013 and 2014, as well as the outdoor championship in the latter year. Including track events, Bayley's middle-distance and distance runners (a group that included two All-Northeast Region honorees) broke more than 10 school records.
Prior to her time in Cambridge, Bayley was an assistant coach at Santa Clara, where she mentored a trio of Broncos to All-West Coast Conference accolades. She also served as an assistant at Saint Mary's in 2009-10.
Before moving back into the collegiate ranks, she began her coaching career in 2006 with the Buffalo Chips Running Team in Sacramento. The junior women's club claimed two national AAU team championships and three individual national titles (one of which was won by a USA Junior World Team qualifier).
From 2008 to 2013, Bayley also was the Elite Athlete Coordinator for the California International Marathon, which sent 25 women and eight men to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
As an all-conference runner at UC Davis, Bayley advanced to the 2002 national championship meet. In 2004, she finished 10th at the Stanford Invitational with a 6K time of 22:20, and went on to earn the Aggies' Outstanding Senior Leader Award.
She graduated from UC Davis in 2004 as a double-major in communications and Chicano studies, with an emphasis on social and public policy.
Bayley has also earned certification for Level 5 Elite Coach Status from the IAAF and Level 3 for Endurance from USA Track & Field.
Cal Poly, 2000
Andy Sverchek has been working with Cal Poly’s throwers since 2010. He is also an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and works as an assistant strength coach in the Cal Poly weight room.
His impact was immediately felt, as the 2011 season saw three of Cal Poly’s student-athletes qualify in throwing events for the NCAA West Regional.
Sverchek grew up in San Luis Obispo, graduating from San Luis Obispo High School in 1994, and went on to set the all-time Cal Poly record in the shot put in 1999, with a mark of 61 feet, 5.5 inches. He won the Big West Conference championship in the shot in 1997 and earned All-America honors in 1999.
He was also a four-year starter at defensive end for the Mustang football team from 1995 through 1998, following in the footsteps of his father Don and uncle Paul, both of whom also played along the defensive line at Cal Poly.
After graduating with a degree in biological sciences in 2000, Sverchek continued to train and compete in both the shot put and discus, and coached at San Luis Obispo High School, where he helped his younger brother Tom break his school record in the shot.
He returned to Cal Poly in 2009 after a six-year career working in the fitness industry as a personal trainer in Los Angeles.
“Cal Poly has a rich track and field history, which includes All-American athletes, national champions, American record-holders and an Olympic gold medalist,” Sverchek said. “My goal is to keep up the tradition of coaching athletes to break old records and to help maintain the tradition of a premier collegiate track and field program at Cal Poly.”