July 9, 2005
Providence, RI-- Rick Wemple, women's distance coach at Brown for the past seven years, has resigned from his position in order to move closer to his family and eventually pursue other coaching opportunities. He follows on the heels of Head Coach Robert Johnson who resigned in mid-May.
Wemple stated, "For the past 8-10 months, I have considered moving back to the midwest to be closer to my parents and sister in Dayton, Ohio. My experience at Brown has been great professionally, but I feel like my personal and social life has suffered because I never planned to settle down in the Northeast. I finally came to the decision to move to a geographic area that I want to be in and then pursue coaching opportunities in those areas. So, I am looking to move within an eight-hour drive of my parents and sister, with one exception. I may move to the Raleigh-Durham, NC area because my best high school friend, his wife, and my godson live there."
Wemple made an immediate impact in both the cross country and track & field programs during his first year with Brown in 1998-99. He took the cross country team from the previous year's fifth place finish to runner-up honors at the Heptagonal Championships. He followed that up with an impressive fourth place finish at the NCAA Regional meet when the squad had taken 11th the year before. Meghan Moriarty '99 qualified for NCAAs by finishing eighth out of 180 runners. On the track that year, the middle distance and distance runners doubled their scoring output from the previous year, and the team won both the indoor and outdoor Heptagonal Championships. In addition, the indoor distance medley relay team of Mary Hale '02, Nakia Thomas '00, Michelle Gross '01, and Sara Tindall '01 set a new school record.
In 1999, Wemple coached the cross country team to a Heptagonal League Cross Country title, with Tindall taking the meet's individual crown. It was the first time in Brown cross country history that either an individual or team title had been garnered. Wemple's squad went on to finish ninth at the NCAA National Championships in their first NCAA appearance. The team followed-up these efforts with NCAA berths in both 2000 and 2001. Tindall repeated as individual Heptagonal Champion in 2000 and earned All-American status with her 19th place showing at the NCAA Championship meet. She went on to set the 3,000-meter indoor school record (9:34.37), which still stands to date.
Wemple coached seven other track and field individual and relay Heptagonal League champions during his tenure; in addition, six individual and two relay school records were set under him. The 4 x 800 relay team, in particular, found success under Wemple's guidance. The team set four school records in four years (2002-2005) with four different combinations of athletes. Many other athletes have made Brown's all-time Top Ten lists since Wemple's arrival at Brown. Kim Thalmann '02 set the still-standing outdoor 5,000-meter record in the spring of 2002 under Wemple, and Anna Willard '06 posted a new school record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (10:35) this spring to complement her third-place finish at the outdoor Heptagonals and runner-up effort at ECACs in the event.
Despite the struggles the women's cross country team has faced in the last two years, the middle distance squad has continued to be a positive impact on the track and field team, and had its best showing in 2004 with four Heptagonal titles. Naja Ferjan '07 captured the indoor and outdoor open 800-meter titles. Both the indoor (Caci Cambruzzi '04, Kathering Kosub '04, Anna Willard '06, and Kate Cushing '04) and outdoor (Kosub, Cambruzzi, Kate Cushing '04, and Ferjan) 4 x 800m relay teams captured first place. Nora Sullivan '07 finished 4th in the indoor 5,000-meter run, and more points were brought in by the distance squad outdoors with Cushing's 4th place finish in the 1500-meter run.
Off the track, all of Wemple's athletes have graduated, and three of his cross country teams earned NCAA All-Academic with Distinction. Cushing '04 was named RIAIWA Distinguished Student-Athlete of the Year for Brown in 2003 for her athletic accomplishments combined with her service to the community through education.
Wemple said, "I absolutely love coaching. If I have to step back and volunteer coach somewhere for a few years before getting back into the paid ranks, I will. I earned certification in personal training back in December, so I can use that to support myself if I have to volunteer for a few years. Rest assured, I am not leaving the coaching ranks."
Wemple's resignation follows the retirement announcement of head coach Robert Johnson. Johnson plans to move back home to Texas. He and his wife, Dee, and their children Cory and Courtney, will settle in San Antonio, where Dee is originally from. Johnson plans to teach chemistry and physical education at East Central High School, and is looking forward to pursuing his dream of coaching high school football at East Central (a Division 5A school). Johnson will also be the head coach of the track and field team there.
In Johnson's first year at Brown as an assistant coach in 1991-92, the women's team won its first ever Heptagonal League Track and Field title. The team won 11 Heptagonal Championships in the next nine years, and had one second place finish. The 2000-01 season was Johnson's first as head coach of the Brown track & field team. In his five years as head coach, he was twice named NCAA Regional Coach of the Year (2001 and 2004).
Both Wemple and Johnson move on with reservations, but with their families' best interests at heart: "I went back and forth for almost two months with my decision," said Wemple. "When Coach Johnson decided to resign, the idea of possibly becoming the head coach diverted my attention from leaving, but it ultimately came down to the fact that I've always wanted to get back to the Midwest and be closer to family and friends."
Johnson remarked, "I'm one of ten children, and two of my siblings have passed away in the last twelve months. I had been leaning towards pursuing my dream of coaching high school football and track, and my siblings' passing convinced me that life is too short. I had better go follow my true passion and dreams, and spend the precious time I have with my family."