CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Asha Gibson-Smith, who competed for Jacksonville State and made coaching stops at Jacksonville State, Tennessee State, and Drake as part of a 14-year collegiate coaching career, takes the reins of Austin Peay State University's cross country and track and field programs, Vice President and Director of Athletics Gerald Harrison announced Wednesday.
Over 14 seasons, 41 student-athletes won individual conference championships with Gibson-Smith as a coach. Five athletes won their respective Athlete of the Conference Championship award, and six ultimately received First or Second Team All-America honors. In addition, those teams won three conference championships while her teams at Drake – where she was head coach – put forth their program's best conference finishes in recent history.
"We are excited to welcome Asha Gibson-Smith to Stacheville and the Austin Peay family," said Harrison. "She has a reputation of being a great communicator with her student-athletes, a knack for developing talent, and an outstanding recruiter. Asha has led successful Division I programs and has excellent knowledge of our landscape during her time in our previous conference. These qualities will be vital to elevate our program to ASUN championship contention.
"Asha is committed to building our roster and further developing the commitment to the pillars of the 'Total Gov Concept' in our track & field and cross country programs. As a former university instructor, she also is an educator with a solid understanding of the needs of our Governor student-athletes. I want to thank (deputy director of athletics) Niesha Campbell, (senior associate director of athletics) Emily Smith, (assistant executive director of alumni and annual giving) Brad Averitt, (associate director of athletics) Tara Patterson, and Parker Executive Search for their assistance during this process."
"It is an honor to earn the opportunity to lead the men and women of Austin Peay's cross country and track & field programs," said Gibson-Smith. "The commitment and vision from the administration were quite clear throughout the process, and I look forward to contributing to the 'Total Gov Concept' for our student-athletes. I sincerely thank President Michael Licari, Director of Athletics Gerald Harrison, and the entire search committee for allowing my family and me to be a part of the APSU campus and Clarksville community."
In her most recent coaching stop, Gibson-Smith was the head track and field coach at Drake for three seasons (2019-22). While in Des Moines, Iowa, she led the Bulldogs' men's program to a third-place finish in the 2021 Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Championships, their best finish since 1974. Also, the women's team posted their best point total since 1986 in that championship.
As part of her final season at Drake, Gibson-Smith coached Busiwa Asinga and Bria Rhodes to first and second-place finishes, respectively, in the 400-meter dash in the 2022 MVC Indoor Championship, the first 1-2 finish in a sprint event in program history and it marked the third-consecutive year a Bulldogs student-athlete won the event. Jaymie O'Connor won the women's pentathlon and 60-meter hurdles, the first woman in Drake program history to accumulate 20 individual team points at a single meet since 1989. In addition, Cloud Masibhera concluded his career with a fifth conference horizontal jump (long and triple jumps) title, the most titles by a Drake jumper in program history.
In 2021, five Drake male student-athletes claimed eight MVC individual championships and four runner-up finishes. In addition, two Bulldogs female student-athletes won three league titles. Three men's student-athletes qualified for the 2021 NCAA Men's Track & Field Outdoor Championships, earning two Second Team All-America honors and an honorable mention All-America nod.
Gibson-Smith guided MVC Freshman of the Year Gal Arad to a runner-up finish in the 200-meter dash and a third-place finish in the 100-meter dash in 2021. Arad continued to perform well after his debut season and was a semifinalist at the 2021 European Athletics U23 Championships in Tallinn, Estonia. Also highlighting the 2021 campaign, Yinka Mary Ajayi qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, becoming the fifth Drake track & field athlete to ever compete in the Olympics, the first female, and the first since 1960.
Before her move to Des Moines, Gibson-Smith was on the Tennessee State track and field staff as associate head coach for five seasons (2014-19). Over her five seasons in Nashville, the Tigerbelles won two Ohio Valley Conference track and field championship titles. Gibson-Smith also coached two NCAA Division I All-Americans, two OVC Female Athlete of the Year recipients (all sports), three OVC Athlete of the Championships, 10 NCAA East preliminary qualifiers, and 11 OVC individual champions. She mentored Amber Hughes, a 26-time Ohio Valley Conference champion, a 2016 US Olympic Trials qualifier, and a 2017 USATF National Championship qualifier while at Tennessee State.
A 2008 Jacksonville State graduate, Gibson-Smith began her coaching career at her alma mater (2009-14). While at Jacksonville State, she saw 14 school records broken and secured 12 conference champions.
Gibson-Smith, a USATF Level 3, IAAF Level V coach, has earned several USTFCCCA and USATF certifications throughout her professional career. She holds USAW Level I and USTFCCCA Strength and Conditioning Specialist certifications. She has participated in the USOC/USATF Emerging Elite Coaches Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. She is a USATF Level 1 Instructor and previously a Female Mentor for the USTFCCCA Female Coaching Mentorship program.
After a year as Sports Event Manager at the Birmingham CrossPlex, Gibson-Smith returns to the coaching ranks. She managed the facility's contractual agreements, event preparation, and event-day management for various championships and invitationals, including the 2022 World Games and the 2023 NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field National Championship.
Upon graduation, Gibson-Smith was the JSU record holder in three running events and received the Ohio Valley Conference Academic Medal of Honor. She graduated magna cum laude from Jacksonville State and received her master's degree in physical education with an emphasis in human performance in 2013.