Credit: St. John’s Athletics photo

After seven years on the St. John’s University coaching staff for track and field, last month Aliann Pompey was named the program’s head coach. This follows the retirement of Jim Hurt, who has been at St. John’s for 39 years, 33 as head coach. A four-time Olympian representing Guyana, Pompey has brought her competitive experience and knowledge of the sport to the Red Storm, elevating the sprinters’ results.

“Sometimes I think about it, and it seems it happened really fast,” said Pompey, who was promoted to associate head coach last year. “Seven years is a pretty short time to go from not coaching college at all to being a head coach at a college program. Then sometimes it seems long because there have been challenges, ups, downs, learning experiences and a lot of lessons.

“After about year two, it really became my dream and my goal to be the leader of a great track and field program,” she added. “For Coach Hurt to kind of tap me to be next…has been very meaningful. Our conversations over the last few months have been so encouraging, and I think once he made the decision that he was going to retire, he did a good job of imparting as much knowledge that I would need as possible.”

Pompey will continue her involvement with the Olympic movement. She is an executive committee member on the World Olympians Association and president of the Pan American Sports Athlete Commission. Although she had to cancel it again this year due the pandemic, Pompey will continue to mount her Aliann Pompey Invitational track meet, bringing international talent to Guyana.

Incredibly, Pompey, who ended her competitive track career after the 2012 Olympic Games, resisted becoming a coach. She spent a couple of years running the college prep program at the Armory Track in Washington Heights and was concerned that the things that made her a good athlete wouldn’t readily transfer to coaching. Most notably, she was not talkative during workouts, and she assumed coaching would involve a lot of talking, but she found an approach that works for her and once she started coaching, she loved it.

“I don’t always give the feedback right at practice,” Pompey said. “Sometimes, we’ll sit down after practice and go over what happened and what we experienced. … There are a good amount of my athletes who want to talk and want to address it right away, and some of them don’t. It’s something that I’ve adjusted to, but the main thing is it’s brought me full circle back to being around the sport I love so much. I can’t imagine the rest of my life not being around sport, particularly track and field.”