August 20, 2022

Henry retires after 42 years as Michigan track coach

06/14/2022 14:00:00

// Kyle Terwillegar

ANN ARBOUR, Mich. – University of Michigan Assistant Athletics Coach Jacques-Henri announced on Tuesday (June 14) that he was retiring after a distinguished 42-year coaching career with the program.

Henry, who was hired as the first black head coach of a Michigan varsity track team in 1985 after four years as UM’s assistant sprints and jumps coach, became the women’s track and field coach on winningest in Big Ten history in 33 years leading the women’s track and field program and four more seasons sharing head coaching duties with Jerry Clayton for the combined men’s and women’s program.

“My time at Michigan has truly been a labor of love – from student-athlete, to assistant coach, to the first black head coach the University has ever hired, to co-head coach and back again to assistant coach. I guess that’s what they call ‘the full loop’,” Henry said. “I’ve had the pleasure of coaching many Big Ten and National Championship athletes, and even being able to coach athletes at the Olympics. I’ve been most proud to see so many of them do things again. most incredible in their professional careers and their lives beyond the track. I appreciate all the opportunities that have been afforded to me during the 46 years that I have been associated with Michigan Athletics, and I do not wish the program every success moving forward.

He served in 2021-22 as an assistant coach under the Director of Athletics/Cross Country Kevin Sullivan.

“Coach Henry’s Michigan career encompasses both his coaching heritage and his time as a student-athlete here, and there’s something to be said for someone who has spent more than four decades in one institution,” Sullivan said. “You don’t see that much anymore, and that says a lot about the type of person he is, the coach he is and the impact he has had on the lives of young people. We have all the banners , records and championships it shows some of that legacy, but when you see what the young women who have been part of his program over the years have gone on to do beyond their athletic careers, it really shows the positive impact he’s had here in Michigan.”

Of all the head coaches at the University of Michigan in the school’s history, only Cliff Keen of wrestling at age 42 and that of softball Carole Hutchins at 38 are older.

james Henry inspired generations of young people during his more than four decades as a coach here in Michigan,” said Warde Manuel, Donald R. Shepherd’s athletic director. “His desire to help each of his student-athletes become the best versions of themselves is as true to our ‘Leaders and Better’ ethos as his teams’ many athletic successes at the Big Ten, NCAA and international levels. Many have and will continue to follow in his footsteps as Michigan’s first and longest serving black head coach. He is a singular figure in Michigan’s athletic history, and on behalf of the department, I thank him for all of his contributions. to the University of Michigan and its student-athletes and wish him a happy retirement.”

A testament to its longevity, Manuel and Sullivan competed on the UM men’s track team while Henry served as the women’s head coach.

Under his leadership, the Wolverines won a record 16 team titles between indoor and outdoor seasons, and earned two third-place finishes in the NCAA Championships among eight national top-10 rankings. He was named Big Ten Coach of the Year 13 times and Great Lakes Regional Coach of the Year six times.

After leading the Michigan Women to their first-ever Big Ten Outdoor Championships tag team title in 1993, the Wolverines were consistently at or near the top of the standings. Of its 16 Big Ten tag team titles, 10 have come in the years Michigan won the indoor and outdoor crowns — 1994, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2016.

Michigan achieved its water record in NCAA Championship competition during a five-year streak from 2005 to 2009. Under his leadership, the Wolverines racked up nine top-15 finishes, including a streak of four consecutive top-10 finishes in 2007 and 2008. which included third-place finishes at the 2007 NCAA Outdoor Championships and 2008 NCAA Indoor Championships.

That success has been fueled by multiple generations of Wolverines over five different decades racking up 16 National Event titles, 193 All-America honors and 220 Big Ten titles.

Three of the student-athletes he has directly coached — Nicole Forrester, Tiffany (Ofili) Porter and Cindy (Ofili) Sember — have competed in six Olympic Games combined, with six additional Olympic appearances by student-athletes from other event groups.

Despite all the success his Wolverines had on the track and on the field, Henry always took the most pride in preparing his student-athletes to achieve and reach their full potential once their athletic careers were over.

While at Michigan, 11 women earned the Big Ten Medal of Honor in recognition of their achievements in competition, in the classroom, and in the community.

Henry’s teams have been recognized annually by the US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association and its precursor organizations for their collective efforts in the classroom.

Michigan student-athletes have accumulated three Academic All-America of the Year honors, 20 Academic All-America honors, 111 USTFCCCA Academic Honors, 147 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar honors, and more than 600 Big Ten All-Academic honors.

Prior to taking over as head coach, Henry was an assistant coach from 1981 to 1984, and before that he was a standout jumper for Wolverines from 1977 to 1980. He helped Wolverines win three titles team during his undergraduate competitive career and won the outdoor Big Ten long jump title in 1980. To this day, he still ranks No. 4 on everyone’s UM long jump list indoor times and No. 7 on the outdoor list.

Coach’s Assistant Steven Rajewsky will assume responsibility for the women’s sprint and hurdles group on an interim basis while a search is conducted for the vacancy on Sullivan’s coaching staff.