ORLANDO, Fla. - For Caryl Smith Gilbert, Monday was bittersweet.
During a mid-morning team meeting, UCF’s head women’s track and field coach informed her team that she had accepted the Director of Track and Field position at the University of Southern California. Later in the afternoon, the Knights were honored with a luncheon and reception to celebrate their many accomplishments during the past year, which included the school’s first-ever NCAA Champion and top-five finishes at both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships.
“I set out on a mission to make this program a track and field superpower,” Smith Gilbert said. “We were in the top five, both indoor and outdoor, this year. So I think the program is definitely headed in the right direction. I want to thank Todd Stansbury, Jessica Reo, Keith Tribble and so many others for the opportunity, the help and all the assistance they gave us to get us to this point. President Hitt is very supportive of the team and everybody at UCF embraced us. We made major strides in this program.
“Orlando is a great place. UCF is a great place,” Smith Gilbert continued. “It’s going to be very sad. I’m excited about embarking on a new adventure. But it is going to be very hard for me to leave. We grew as a family, so they’re more than just my athletes. They’re like my little sisters and daughters. I taught them everything I could.”
In her new role at USC, Smith Gilbert will be responsible for all aspects of the Trojans’ men’s and women’s track and field programs.
During her UCF tenure, the Knights won six Conference USA outdoor and indoor crowns. Her athletes were named All-America more than 100 times and set more than 100 school records. In the classroom, her team’s GPA exceeded 3.0 nearly every term during her tenure.
“Caryl Smith Gilbert and our student-athletes are responsible for our women’s track and field program being recognized among the best in the nation,” said UCF Vice President and Director of Athletics Todd Stansbury. “She is an amazing coach and an amazing person. We certainly understand that when you have a coach who has accomplished the sort of things Coach Caryl has, that she will be presented with other opportunities. We thank her for everything she has done at UCF and wish her and her family nothing but the best in the future.”
In 2013, UCF’s fifth-place showing at the NCAA outdoor meet was the best finish by a non-BCS school since 2000 and its 35 points more than doubled the previous program best. Smith Gilbert was named the USTFCCA South Region Coach of the Year for a fifth time in 2013 as she guided UCF to its first-ever Top-10 outdoor ranking in the USTFCCCA poll. She was the only coach to have three 100-meter runners ranked among the Top 10-seeded qualifiers at the NCAA meet. Twelve school records were broken during the 2013 outdoor season while the team won its fourth-straight C-USA title, a feat unmatched by any other women's track and field program in C-USA history. Octavious Freeman was the C-USA Track Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive year.
UCF also finished fifth at the 2013 NCAA indoor meet, as Aurieyall Scott won the 60-meter dash to become the school’s first NCAA champion in any sport. Scott was also the C-USA Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.
UCF’s eighth-place finish at the 2012 NCAA indoor meet was the program’s best at the time. UCF won the C-USA outdoor title and capped the season by sending four Knights to compete at the USA Olympic Trials. In 2011, UCF swept the indoor and outdoor C-USA titles as Jackie Coward was named C-USA Track Athlete of the Year and UCF's first two-time All-America first-teamer. Smith Gilbert was C-USA's outdoor and indoor Coach of the Year. She led the 2010 Knights to the C-USA Outdoor championship. Coward became UCF’s first NCAA Outdoor All-American, finishing fourth in the 100-meter hurdles.
In Smith Gilbert’s first two seasons at UCF, 2008 and 2009, her athletes broke 30 of the school's indoor and outdoor school records. She also served as the jumps and multi-events coach of Team USA at the 2009 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Berlin.
Smith Gilbert came to UCF after five seasons (2003-07) as an assistant coach at Tennessee, where she was responsible for coaching sprints, hurdles and jumps. Smith Gilbert was an assistant coach at Alabama for three years (2000-02) and held similar responsibilities as an assistant at Penn State for two seasons (1998-99). Prior to becoming a collegiate coach, Smith Gilbert was the head coach for four seasons (1994-97) at her prep alma mater, George Washington High in Denver.