Jesse Norman just completed his seventh year as head coach of the UNC Asheville Cross Country and Track and Field programs. The Bulldogs' cross country and track and field teams have shown tremendous improvements across the board during his tenure.
In the 2013-14 year, Norman directed the women’s cross country team to a third-place finish, the highest finish for a Bulldog cross country program in 10 years. Asheville finished just two points out of second place and had two runners earn All-Conference honors. He guides the men’s team, the youngest in the Big South, to a sixth-place finish after finishing in last place just two years ago.
In track, highlights included Meredith Ristic winning the Big South Indoor Championships in the high jump and podium finishes for Corey McClintock and Kurt Hibert in the weight throw and discus respectively during the outdoor campaign.
During the 2012-13 track season, Milan Ristic became the first Bulldog to ever qualify for the indoor nationals when he qualified in the 60 meter hurdles. He earned Honorable Mention All-American honors for his performance. Ristic won the Big South Conference championship in the 60 meter hurdles during the indoor season and captured the 110 meter hurdles in the outdoor season.
Sarah Gentry captured the Big South Conference championship in the 800 meters in both the indoor and outdoor meets. The 4x4000 DMR team won the Big South title in the indoor event.
In the 2011-12 seasons, the Bulldogs' men's track team had Milan Ristic qualify for the NCAA Preliminary Outdoor meet in the 110 hurdles. It marked the first time a Bulldog hurdler had advanced to a NCAA championship meet. Ristic won the Big South Conference championship in the 110 hurdles at the outdoor meet and won the 60 hurdles at the league's indoor meet in February. On the women's side, Sarah Gentry captured the 800 meters at the outdoor BSC championships for her first ever championship.
The 2010-11 seasons saw new heights for the programs. The women's cross country squad improved its team finish at the Big South Championships with Melanie Kulesz again earning all-conference honors. The indoor season had the women's team finishing in third place, the highest in school history. Norman was named Big South Indoor Track and Field Women's Coach of the Year after Asheville's impressive performance.
During the outdoor season Natalie Pearson (100m & 200m) and Simon Haake (Javelin) qualified for the NCAA Eastern Regional with Pearson advancing on to the NCAA National Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. The outdoor season also had Ristic qualify for the European U-23 Championships in the 110m hurdles. He also guided Ashlei Clodfelter to a school record in the triple jump (38-9).
During the 2009-10 seasons, both Bulldog cross country squads improved their showing from the previous season with freshman Melanie Kulesz earning all-conference honors. In the track and field ranks, Asheville had both Simon Haake and Natalie Pearson qualify for the Eastern Regional under tougher standards. Pearson became the first Bulldog student-athlete to qualify for the National Championships in the 200 meters. Pearson was ranked first nationally in the 200 during the season. Kulesz qualified for the USATF Junior Nationals in the 5,000, placing 11th at the championships.
Norman worked for two years at Western Carolina with the Catamounts' men's and women's distance teams before coming to UNC Asheville in the summer of 2007. He helped guide WCU cross country runner Dan Fassinger to an all-conference finish in cross country and Deanna Kulesz to an all-conference finish in the 1500 and 3000 meters. Norman was part of a Catamount coaching staff that helped WCU win two straight Southern Conference Outdoor Track and Field championships.
Norman enjoyed a great career at Western Carolina from 1999-2003. He won the Southern Conference individual championship in cross country in 2001, the only Catamount ever to accomplish such a feat, and earned all-conference honors in the 10,000 meters during the 2000 outdoor season. Norman had a sensational prep career at Fuquay-Varina HS where he was a five-time state champion in cross country, 1600 meters and 3200 meters.
Norman earned a degree in physical education from Western Carolina in 2003 and then picked up his master's in physical education in May of 2007.
Norman holds USATF Level I & II certifications in endurance and was invited to attend the United States Olympic Committee's Emerging Elite coaching clinic held at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. for both the endurance (2009) and the jumping (2010) event groups.
Jesse and his wife Melanie have a daughter, Eliza.