Editor’s Note: This is the third in a five-part series on the 2020 Tiger Hall of Fame.
Mark Phillips, who took the Cowley College track and field program to incredible heights, will be inducted into the Tiger Athletic Hall of Fame on Jan. 18.
Phillips is in his 17th year as the track and field head coach at Cowley. He has guided the men’s team to six of the past 13 indoor conference titles and five of the past 13 outdoor conference championships. He has also led the Lady Tigers to three straight indoor conference titles and back-to-back outdoor conference titles.
Phillips led the Lady Tigers to finish ninth nationally during both the Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 2019.
Phillips led Cowley’s men’s team to its first-ever Jayhawk East triple crown in 2008, winning championships in indoor track, outdoor track and cross country.
In Phillips time at Cowley, he has led the Tigers to two national championships, 32 Jayhawk Conference titles, 11 Region VI titles, and 14 top-five finishes at the NJCAA National Championships.
He has also served as an assistant cross country coach at the school and led the 2010 men’s and women’s teams to national championships.
Prior to coming to Cowley, he spent 12 years at Johnson County Community College, including four years as head coach, where he played a key role in a lengthy list of cross country and track accomplishments.
Phillips coached pole vault, long jump, triple jump, heptathlon and decathlon at Northwest Missouri State University in 1985 and 1986. He coached jumps, sprints, heptathlon and decathlon as an assistant at Cloud County Community College in 1988 and 1989, where he coached five All-Americans. From the fall of 1989 to the spring of 1991, he was the cross country and track and field head coach at Kansas City Community College, where he turned the program into a national contender in the sprints, coaching 34 All-Americans.
The Northwest Missouri State graduate also saw his share of success as a student-athlete. He was a pole vaulter and sprinter at Cloud County and Northwest Missouri State.
Phillips was a Region VI champion and a two-time national qualifier in the pole vault at Cloud County, and set school and Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association records while winning three conference championships in the pole vault and as a member of a school-record and NCAA Division II national-qualifying 4x100-meter relay team at Northwest Missouri State. He was a member of the 1982 MIAA conference championship team and qualified for two NCAA Division II national meets in the pole vault.
He was born in Topeka and raised in Americus. He was a three-sport standout at Northern Heights High School in Allen, where he earned all-state honors in football and all-league honors in basketball, and placed third in the pole vault his senior year at the KSHSAA Track and Field State Championships.
He went on to compete in track and field at Cloud County, where he was the Region VI outdoor champion in the pole vault and finished seventh at indoor nationals his sophomore year.
He then transferred to Northwest Missouri State and held both indoor and outdoor school records in the pole vault and the 4x100 relay for a few years while also holding the MIAA record in the pole vault for a couple years both indoor and outdoor.
Phillips helped NWMSU to win its first indoor conference team championship in school history and that team was inducted into the NWMSU Hall of Fame. That team also won the conference outdoor championship back-to-back years.
Phillips received a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Northwest Missouri State in 1984. He stayed on at NWMSU in a GA position for a couple of years and while doing that trained for the decathlon and competed in three decathlons each year.
“That taught me a lot about the other events,” Phillips said.
It was during his time in college that he decided he wanted to get into coaching.
“When I decided to go to college, that’s all I wanted to do,” Phillips said.
Phillips considers his high school basketball coach, Randy Ackerman, Cloud County coach Harry Kitchener, and NWMSU coaches Richard Alsup and Richard Flanagan as mentors.
“I enjoy when the student-athletes do everything they are supposed to do and reap the rewards for doing so,” Phillips said.
The always humble Phillips attributes his work ethic and others for his success at Cowley.
“I attribute our team’s success to my motivation to be good and the great assistant coaches I have had, and of course my wife, Naomi, understanding what I do,” Phillips said.
He earned his master’s degree in education from University of Berkley-Michigan in 2001 and is USA Track and Field certified Level 1 coaching and Level 2 jumps.
He and his wife have three children, Katie, Josh, and Justin. Josh was a two-time All-American in the pole vault during his time at Cowley and holds both the indoor and outdoor school records in the event, while Justin is a current sophomore pole vaulter for the Tigers.
“I can’t believe this is really happening. I never even thought about being elected into the Hall of Fame,” Phillips said.