Head Coach Greg LautenslagerGreg Lautenslager returns to Texas, his home state, after a 20-year career Down Under, where he coached his runners to 305 national medals and 12 national team titles in cross country and road relay. His runners set four national records, and a 1,500m runner, Julian Matthews, competed in the 2016 Olympic Games. Eighteen of his athletes received full scholarships to NCAA Division I Schools and 21 runners represented New Zealand overseas. Lautenslager was named Sports Coach of the Year in Nelson, New Zealand an unprecedented five times and served as a New Zealand National Coach.
Lautenslager’s coaching career began at the University of North Texas in 1998. In 3 1/2 years, his athletes won seven Big West and Sun Belt Conference titles in track and cross country. His men’s cross country team won the 2000 Sun Belt Conference Cross Country title, and Lautenslager was named the Sun Belt Conference Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year. The next year his men’s team finished second, and Debbie Thornhill captured the women’s Sun Belt Conference women’s cross country title. His track runners led North Texas in 2000 to its first conference track and field title in 26 years. Paul Ndachi finished 45th in the 1999 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Two of his other runners, Thornhill and Kyle King, would go on to earn All America honors at the NCAA Track and Field Championships.
Lautenslager turned to coaching after an eight-year stint as a sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News and a 20-year running career that spanned berths in four U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. He started running at Bishop Lynch High School and, under the tutelage of Brent Thorne whom he followed to North Mesquite High School, won the 1976 UIL Class 4A State Mile title in a still-standing school record of 4:12.5.
At Texas Tech University, Lautenslager set the 5,000-meter school record in his first race that distance his freshman year in 14:38.0 and held the record for 30 years. He improved to 13:44.1 in a runner-up finish at the Penn Relays to qualify for the 1980 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. He won 28 races while at Texas Tech, finished 13th in the 5,000 meters at the 1980 NCAA Track and Field Championships in Austin, and 48th in the 1979 NCAA Cross Country Championships in Madison, Wisconsin.
He competed post-collegiately for Nike in Eugene and Boston, before finishing his competitive career in Dallas in 1992 with the Asics Track Club. He competed in the 5,000m at the 1984 U.S Olympic Trials in Los Angeles. He toured Europe in 1987, defeated Olympic Champion Alberto Cova in winning the 5,000m in a stadium-record time of 13:33.39 in Bern, Switzerland and eight days later in Paris finished second in the 10,000m in 28:08.39. The time was the third-fastest in the U.S. and 28th fastest in the world that year.
In 1988 Lautenslager won the 5,000m at the prestigious Prefontaine Classic in Eugene and finished seventh in the 5,000m and 10th in the 10,000m at the 1988 Olympic Trials in Indianapolis. He finished 10th at the 1992 Olympic Trials 5,000m final and missed making the U.S. team by seven seconds.
Lautenslager won several New Zealand masters track and field titles and was named the 2013 New Zealand Masters Athletics Middle Distance Athlete of the Year. He was inducted into the Texas Running Hall of Fame and in 2019 he was inducted into the Mesquite Athletic Hall of Honor. Lautenslager has written two novels, Following the Flame and Ghosts of the Gridiron, and currently is writing his third novel.
His oldest son, Craig, won six Sun Belt Conference titles for UT-Arlington, finished 13th in the 5,000m at the 2017 NCAA Track and Field Championships, and won three New Zealand senior titles. His son Jeff reached the 2016 NCAA West Preliminaries in the 1,500m and ran on the Mountain West Conference Cross Country Champion team at Boise State. His son Jared won New Zealand Junior titles in the 3,000m and 5,000m and transferred from Syracuse to UT-Arlington, where he anchored his team to victory in the Distance Medley Relay at the 2019 Sun Belt Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships. The Lautenslagers are still trained by their father.
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