Jim Sprecher, the most successful cross country/track and field coach in UNC Wilmington history, has established the UNCW program as one of the CAA's best as he enters his 18th season in 2013-14.
Sprecher, 51, guided the Seahawks to three consecutive Colonial Athletic Association men's track and field championships from 1997-99 before accepting the top post at his alma mater, Ball State.
He returned to UNCW in 2004 and has picked up where he left off, leading the Seahawks to titles once again in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
The Seahawks had another successful season in 2013 as four athletes qualified for the NCAA First Round meet in Greensboro, N.C. Among those qualifying were Aerial Chatman and David Lindsay, both whom were making their third NCAA regional appearances. Joining Chatman and Lindsey were Meena Reid and Cam Walton, who were making their second and first appearances, respectively.
UNCW finished second and third in the men’s and women’s CAA Championships at Towson. Reid won the women’s 100 meter while Chatman and Walton won the Triple Jump and Long Jumps, respectively.
The Seahawks capped a successful 2012 outdoor season by sending Bob Vanderham (800), David Lindsay (110 Hurdles), Aerial Chatman (Long Jump/Triple Jump) and Jordan Daywalt (Pole Vault) to the NCAA 1st round meet in Jacksonville, Fla. Vanderham and Lindsay were CAA champions in the 800 meters and 110 Hurdles, respectively.
UNCW also saw its men's 4x800 Relay win the College Race of the Penn Relay and won the Florida Relays early in the season. The Seahawks also posted wins in the UNCW Seahawk Invitational and teamed with regional rival East Carolina to win the Beaches Vs. Mountains meet.
Justin Prevette (Long Jump) and Annie Powell (Pole Vault) led a contingent of six Seahawks into the 2011 NCAA Regional. Joining them were Chatman (Triple Jump), Vanderham (800), Wil Zahorodny (800) and Lindsay (110 Hurdles). Vanderham won the first of two CAA 800 meter titles and the UNCW men finished second at the CAA Championships.
The Seahawks totaled five CAA champions in 2010 behind a pair of wins by Devon Watlington, who won both the 110 and 400 meter hurdles. Joining Watlington in the winner's circle were Jeremy Johnson, Prevette, Jordan Reed and Kadeem Harmon on the 4x100 Relay, Alan Wiggins (Pole Vault) and Kathleen Casto in the 10,000 meters. Representing UNCW in the NCAA Regional were Wiggins (Pole Vault), Prevette (200 meters), Watlington (110/400 Hurdles) and Cast (10,000)
In 2009, UNCW continued its winning ways, winning the CAA men's title for a 10th time. On the women's side, senior Jaraea Shepherd was named Co-Most Outstanding Performer after winning both the Discus and Hammer Throws and leading the Seahawks to a second-place finish, their highest finish ever in the championship.
Led by school-record holding sprinter John Carr, a contingent of six athletes competed at the NCAA Southeast Regional in Greensboro, N.C. That brought the total number of NCAA regional participants to 89 during the guidance of Sprecher.
The Seahawks captured their ninth overall men's championship in 2008 in dramatic fashion, taking the 4x400 Relay and rallying for the win. Ten Seahawks won CAA championships, 18 were named All-East and nine qualified for the NCAA Regionals in Tallahassee, Fla.
2007-08 was a special year for the program in addition to winning the CAA Championship. A pair of alums were honored when Michael McDuffie was inducted into the UNCW Hall-of-Fame and Anna Raynor competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials.
UNCW won its first of two straight CAA titles in 2007. On the men's side, the Seahawks produced six CAA champions and 22 All-CAA performers. Sprecher's club then posted a best-ever fifth place finish at the IC4A Championships in Princeton, N.J., qualifying seven performers for the NCAA Regionals in Gainesville, Fla.
The women's squad, meanwhile, continues to make progress as well, highlighted by the emergence of thrower Anna Raynor. The remarkable athlete successfully defended her Championship of Americas title in the javelin at the Penn Relays and qualified for the NCAA Championships for the third straight year.
Overall, the women's team featured five All-CAA performers, 17 qualifiers for the ECAC Championships and five qualifiers for the NCAA Regionals.
In 2004-05, Sprecher led the Seahawks to their seventh CAA crown with a school-record 218.5 points. He was named CAA Coach-of-the-Year for the fourth time after collecting the honor in 1997, 1998 and 1999.
Following a brief stint at Ball State, Sprecher came back to the Port City and began rebuilding the program. In 2004-05, UNCW featured 12 conference champions, 41 All-CAA performers, 25 NCAA East Regional qualifiers and set 23 school records.
The 2004-05 campaign also saw the emergence of one of the top athletes in the program's history as Raynor grabbed the national spotlight. Raynor became the school's first national qualifier for the indoor nationals in the high jump and then collected All-American honors in the javelin at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Sacramento, Calif.
Sprecher headed up the UNCW program from 1992-99 before leaving for Muncie. In seven seasons, he led the Seahawks to three CAA titles, coached 37 individual conference champions and 173 All-CAA performers. In that span, Seahawk thinclads earned All-East honors 49 times and won Penn Relays events five times, four in relay events and one individual crown. He also coached two NCAA Division I national qualifiers and one Academic All-American.
Sprecher was named CAA Men's Track & Field Coach-of-the-Year in 1997 and 1998, and shared the honor with James Madison's Bill Walton in 1999. In 1994, Sprecher was selected CAA Women's Cross Country Coach-of-the-Year.
At Ball State, Sprecher coached eight Mid-American Conference champions and had five of his athletes qualify for the NCAA Division I Championships, with four earning All-American honors.
Under Sprecher's leadership, Zach Riley became the first two-time track All-American at Ball State on the NCAA Division I level with his performances in the hammer throw in 2001 and 2002.
Sprecher's teams have excelled academically as well. He has coached 27 Academic All-American teams and 29 Academic All-Americans.
Sprecher and his wife, Gwenann, have two children, daughter Alex, 23, and son Trace, 18.
Sprecher by the numbers at UNCW
484 - All-CAA Athletes
126 - CAA Champions
124 - All-East Performers
94 - NCAA regional qualifiers
29 - Academic All-Americas
29 - Academic All-America Teams
26 - NCAA Preliminary National Qualifiers
8 - CAA Coach-of-the-Year Awards
7 - NCAA national qualifiers
7 - CAA Championship teams
7 - Chancellor Cup Award Winners
5 - All-East region honorees
5 - CAA Most Valuable Performers
5 - Penn Relay Champions
4 - ECAC Champions
4 - Thomas Mosely Outstanding Student Athlete Award winners
4 - CAA Silver Anniversary Team members
4 - UNCW Hall-of-Fame inductees
3 - NCSA Strength and Conditioning All-Americas
3 - NCAA All-Americas
3 - Penn Relay Individual Champions
3 - CAA Scholar-Athlete-of-the-Year Award
2 – Soaring Seahawk Award Winners
1 - USA National Team athlete
1 - Olympic qualifier
1 - NCAA Southeast Regional Athlete-of-the-Year