Thurston County Running History
(in Washington State)

Dave Smith of Oklahoma State University grew up in Thurston County in the State of Washington. Photo Credit: Oklahoma State University Staff


Dave has been selected as the NCAA Division 1 National Cross-Country  Coach of the Year several times. Photo Credit: National Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association.

Did you know that two of the most outstanding NCAA Division 1 distance coaches grew up in Thurston County in the State of Washington?

Dave Smith is a graduate of Tumwater High School in Tumwater, Washington. Rob Conner is a graduate of Timberline High School in Lacey, Washington. Both are incredible college running coaches.

You can see their detailed coaching accomplishments at the links below. However, here are a few highlights of Dave's and Rob's careers:

Dave Smith

Dave has coached three NCAA Division 1 national cross-country championships at Oklahoma State University. In addition, Dave has won the NCAA Division 1 Cross Country Coach of the Year award three times. This is the highest honor for a Division 1 collegiate distance coach. Moreover, Dave is still the second-fastest high school 1600-meter runner in Thurston County history. His 1600-meter time of 4:09.28 stood for over 30 years as the all-time Thurston County High School record. 

Take a look at the Dave Smith Bio when you have the time.

Rob Conner

Rob Conner is the coach at the University of Portland. The University of Portland finished second in the NCAA Division 1 cross-country championships one year behind Northern Arizona University of Flagstaff, Arizona. The Pilots have a third-place podium finish at the NCAA Division I cross-country championships. Rob has also guided the Pilots to 23 Division 1 national cross-country appearances. 

Connor coached 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials 10,000-meter winner Woody Kincaid in college, among others, at the University of Portland.

Every year, the University of Portland is ranked in the top 20 Division 1 cross-country programs nationwide. In addition, Rob has also won multiple conference Coach of the Year awards. Rob was a standout 1600 and 3200-meter runner at Timberline High School in Lacey, Washington. Rob grew up about 2 miles from my home.

Smith and Conner lived roughly five miles from each other in Thurston County during their youth. The Rob Conner Bio is an impressive display of his work in building an incredible program in Portland.

I know both Dave and Rob and have followed their careers. Both have worked super hard to build their programs. They have success year in and year out in their programs.

One of the reasons I am writing about our area's running history is to highlight the many accomplishments of our running community that many people have forgotten or don't know. Dave and Rob are part of our incredible running legacy. They are great coaches at the NCAA Division 1 level and two of the best of all time.

From great coaches to hosting the first-ever U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials for women, the people of Thurston County have led the way in some critical areas of distance running and endurance events in the United States. 


Coach Weber

Philippians 4:13



Rob Connor of the University of Portland Photo Credit: University of Portland Staff

Rob Connor is in the green jacket running (on the track) in his high school days with his teammates at the Timberline Hgh School track in Lacey, Washington. Rob grew up about 2 hours north of  the University of Portand in Lacey, Washington. 

 Photo credit: Rob Connor's photo from his high school days. 


The author and Rob Connor at an indoor meet at the University of Portland in 2024.