New Kentucky track coach Edrick Floreal has a full summer on tap

mmaloney@herald-leader.comJuly 11, 2012 

STANFORD, CA - APRIL 7, 2012: Stanford track & field competes on day 2 of the Stanford Invitational at Cobb Track & Angell Field in Stanford, California.

RICHARD C. ERSTED — Richard C. Ersted / stanfordphoto.com

These are busy times for Edrick Floreal.

Named head coach of the University of Kentucky track and cross country programs on Monday, Floreal is full speed at assembling a staff and contacting his new athletes.

He's doing so from Palo Alto, Calif., where he's also organizing things for whomever will be the successor to the job he just resigned from — head coach at Stanford.

And, by the way, he's also preparing to be jumps coach for Team USA at the Summer Olympic Games, which open in London on July 27.

He plans to fulfill his Olympic role, "but my No. 1 goal is to get a staff and to get UK in the right direction," Floreal said during a phone interview from Palo Alto. "So I'm hoping I can (go to London). ... That's a big opportunity to represent your country."

A UK assistant from 1995 through 1997, Floreal moved to Stanford as an assistant in 1998. He took over as head coach in 2005.

Under his watch, 91 Stanford athletes earned 197 All-America honors. The Cardinal won three NCAA women's cross country titles and finished among the top-five men's cross country programs in three of the last four years. Add to that seven NCAA track and field finishes indoors, as well as outdoors.

UK is coming off a seventh-place men's finish and 12th-place women's finish in the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships.

"I have to have (UK athletes) buy in, and buying in means 'wherever we're at right now, we need to do better,'" Floreal said. "Can we do three or four spots better? I certainly hope so, and I certainly think so. But it might be two spots better; it might be six spots better.

"I don't know right now, and I just don't want the kids to get discouraged. ... Like my former A.D. (at Stanford), Bob Bowlsby, said, 'you've got to eat the elephant one bite at a time.' I'm not interested in trying to eat the whole thing together, so we're going to keep biting at that until we eat the whole thing."

That challenge to build UK's program and take advantage of a new outdoor facility are part of what lured him from Stanford, Floreal said. He cited the support of his UK predecessor — Don Weber — and the passion of Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart as factors.

Then, there's family.

This is practically home for LaVonna Martin-Floreal, Edrick's wife.

The 1992 Olympic silver medalist in the 100-meter hurdles, LaVonna went from high school in Dayton, Ohio, to compete for the University of Tennessee.

Now, the Floreals' children — "E.J." Edrick Jr., 17, and Mikaielle, 13 — will live little more than an hour or two from grandparents.

(Dad proudly notes that both children are good athletes. Mikaielle already stands 5-foot-10. E.J., who will be a high school senior, is 6-4.)

E.J. averaged 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, three assists and two steals for the Palo Alto High School basketball team last season.

Although basketball is his sport of choice, he placed fourth in the 100 meters at California High School State Track, third in the 200 and anchored the seventh-place 4-by-100 relay. His best times of the season: 10.52 in the 100, 21.16 for 200.)

As for assembling a staff, "I think it's important that the people there get a fair shake, and some of them are reaching out," Floreal said. "It'd be dishonest not to say that I've had some people that I've worked with that know what I'm all about and, I think for me, in taking a job of that magnitude we've got quite a bit of work to do, that we'll have to hit the ground running.

"I just can't afford to take a year or two to have somebody kind of adjust to the pace ... in terms of what we're doing. We're going to have people that know what I expect. We're going to get there early, we're going to leave late."

One name to exclude is LaVonna Martin-Floreal.

"I think I'm pretty hard to work for, and I'm pretty demanding on a standard of excellence," Edrick Floreal said. "And I want to stay married."

He said LaVonna will play a role, though, as she did at Stanford.

A "team mom" advisor to female athletes, she can assist in recruiting simply by showing her silver medal.

Like his wife, Floreal is a two-time Olympian (1988 triple jump, 1992 long jump).

Born in Haiti and raised in Canada, he holds passports for both those countries, as well as the United States. He gained citizenship here 15 years ago.

A five-time NCAA triple-jump champion at Arkansas, he says UK won't have an "identity" by event, for now.

"At the level we're at now, we need people that can come in right away and get the job done, whether they be in the throws, the sprints, the jumps," he said. "It doesn't matter if they're a steeplechaser. We need people that can come in right away and score at the SECs and NCAAs.

"If I had a thrower that could score right away and I've got a sprinter that's going to take two or three years (to develop) or a hurdler that's going to take a couple years, I'm going to have to go with whatever can put more bang into the buck right away. And then we'll worry about establishing an identity later. Right now, it's just time to get off that spot seven and spot 12 in the SEC, because we'll have to get ourselves in a position that people realize that this is a logical choice for a really, really talented student-athlete."

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com

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