In 1987, a Boardman, Ohio, native laced up his track shoes and put on his Penguins jersey for the first time. Now, entering his 29th season as a member of the Youngstown State track and field family and his 25th as head coach, Brian Gorby has built one of the elite programs in Ohio, the Horizon League and the Mideast Region.
After earning three letters as an athlete from 1987-90, Gorby served as an assistant coach in both cross country and track before being promoted to the helm of the cross country program in August of 1993. He was named head track and field coach in July of the following year.
In his 25 seasons, Gorby has led the women's program to 24 conference championships and the men to 15 league titles. He has directed the women's team to a pair of Triple Crown's (Cross Country/Indoor/Outdoor) in 2013-14 and 2014-15. The men's squad claimed the Horizon League's Triple Crown in 2016-17 and then again in 2018-19. The men's team also captured the Mid-Continent Conference Triple Crown in the 1996-97.
On the individual level, he has produced 14 All-Americans, 26 national qualifiers, nine junior national qualifiers and 84 NCAA Regional qualifiers. He has also won a staggering 33 Coach-of-the-Year Awards.
YSU has been dominant in the Horizon League winning 29 track and field titles (19 women and 10 men). Since 2014, the Penguins have been on an incredible run. The women have won six outdoor titles, five indoor crowns and two cross country titles. The men have won four outdoor titles, four indoor crowns and while adding their second cross country title in 2018. YSU now holds the conference record for most total titles by a women's track and field program.
Gorby has also led the Penguins to 300 individual titles and 27 relay wins in the Horizon League.
Additionally, YSU claimed eight Mid-Continent Conference Championships from 1994-2001.
Overshadowed by the championship trophies and individual accomplishments, YSU has also finished as runners-up at the league track and field meet 25 times (14 by the men - eight outdoor and six indoor - and 11 by the women - seven indoor and four outdoor).
Off the track, more than 201 student-athletes have garnered academic all-league laurels under Gorby. Headlining that group is Aaron Merrill a two-time Academic All-American (2009 and 2010) and Jarrod Davis who earned Academic All-America accolades in 2006. Most recently, Abby Jones was a first-team Academic All-District honoree in 2018 and 2019.
Emerging on the National Level
The YSU track and field program has stepped up on the national stage the past five years.
YSU made national headlines in 2014 when thrower Bobby Grace finished third in the shot put at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in New Mexico. In the spring, Grace (shot put) and Conner Neu (hammer throw) earned second-team All-America honors during the outdoor NCAA meet by finishing 14th and 15th respectively in their events.
In 2016, Neu and Chad Zallow advanced to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Neu earned first-team All-America honors with an eighth-place finish in the weight throw while Zallow, just a freshman, was a second-team honoree with a ninth-place finish in the 60m hurdles. In June, leu earned the third All-America honor of his career placing 13th at the NCAA Outdoor meet in the hammer throw.
In 2017, Zallow earned first-team All-America honors during the indoor slate and picked up second-team All-America accolades in the outdoor season. At the NCAA Indoor Championships he finished third in the 60m hurdles to garner first-team honors. At the NCAA Outdoor Championships he finished just outside the finals placing ninth.
In 2018, Zallow earned first-team All-America honors for the second straight year on the indoor circuit placing fifth. At the NCAA Outdoor Championships he was a second-team All-America honoree. Additionally, he competed at the Millrose Games and won the 110m hurdles at the prestigious Penn Relays.
In 2019, Zallow earned second-team All-America honors after placing ninth in the 60m hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Jaliyah Elliott also garnered second-team All-America honors after running the 15th-fastest time overall in the 60m dash. At the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Collin Harden was a Honorable Mention All-American after placing 22nd in the 400m hurdles.
The Penguins qualified a school-record nine individual event athletes to the NCAA Preliminary round in 2014. Of those, three were distance runners and six were field athletes. YSU followed suit again in 2015 with six NCAA regional qualifiers in 2015 and in 2016. In 2017, the Guins had eight athletes advance to the NCAA Prelims. Six Penguins competed in Regionals in 2018. In 2019, the Penguins matched their school-record as nine individual event athletes competed at the NCAA East Preliminary Round in Jacksonville, Florida.
In March 2003, Kurt Michaelis moved the Youngstown State track and field program to a new level by becoming the school's first Division I All-American. Michaelis, who was 12th in the nation entering the meet, placed ninth in the mile at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships with a time of 4:07.79 to become the Guins' first All American.
During the outdoor campaign 2010, thrower Danielle Curry became the first YSU woman to advance to the NCAA Track and Field Championships. Curry earned a qualifying spot at regionals and advanced to the meet held in Eugene, Oregon, where she finished 24th.
With Gorby as an assistant coach in 1994, Mona Jackson became YSU's first provisional national qualifier in the indoor 55m. In 1997, Laura Thomas became the first-ever YSU cross country athlete to qualify for national competition. After finishing third out of 189 runners at the Great Lakes Regional, she placed 124th with a time of 18:16 at the national meet. Matt Folk became the first male cross country runner to make it to nationals a year later and placed 77th with a time of 31:48.9. Also in 1998, YSU saw its first male athlete provisionally qualify for national competition in track and field as Paul Carter qualified in the 800m. Thomas qualified for nationals again in 1999, this time provisionally in outdoor track and field in the 10,000-meter run. In 2000, Kofi Owusu-Ansah posted a 15th-place finish in the 200m dash at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Davis hit the provisional mark in the weight throw in 2006 and Anderson eclipsed the standard in 2007.
Since the inception of the NCAA Mideast Regional, which has now become the NCAA Preliminary Round, in 2003, YSU has had student-athletes qualify 69 times by hitting the required mark or winning a Horizon League outdoor title.
In 2007, Bethany Anderson posted the highest-ever finish by a YSU female at the meet by finishing eighth in the hammer. A year earlier, a program high 11 different student-athletes competed at the regional, including the relays. Michaelis placed 10th in the 1,500m as a member of YSU's first qualifying class along with Eugene Harris, Delores Gaines and Beth Hochstetler. His 10th-place finish still ranks as the top for a YSU student-athlete in a running event, and he is the only Penguin to compete in two individual events during the same regional. In 2013, shot putter John Seaver finished 13th, one spot from qualifying for the NCAA meet while sprinter Ciara Jarrett placed in the top 24 in the 200m. The nine individual qualifiers in 2014 was a school mark.
Gorby has also coached six student-athletes who have qualified for the Junior Outdoor Track and Field Championships. In 2002, Emily Schnitkey finished 16th in the 5,000m at Stanford University as the program's first qualifier. Aaron Merrill placed 13th in the shot put and Katie Betts finished sixth in her heat and 32nd overall in the 200m as two Penguins qualified for the first time in school history in 2006. In 2008, Breanne Romeo qualified in the 400-meter dash, in 2009 Kaitlyn Griffith participated in the hammer throw and in 2010, Samantha Hamilton ran in the steeplechase.
On to the Horizon
Since Youngstown State joined the Horizon League in the 2001-02 school year, Gorby has led the Penguins to 30 conference crowns, 25 runner-up team finishes and 121 special individual awards at the conference meet.
Since the fall of 2013, the men's and women's programs have won or finished second in 31 of 36 Horizon League Championship events, which includes cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field. YSU has 16 championships and nine runner-up finishes in that span.
In 2019, the men and women swept the indoor and outdoor championships. Zallow was named the Horizon League's Indoor Athlete of the Year, making him the league's first male athlete to capture the award four consecutive years. At the indoor championships, the men's team secured the title by scoring a school-record 238 points while also winning by 113 points, the second most in league history. At the outdoor meet, the mens' score of 311.5 points was the highest total in league history, beating the old record by 78.5 points. The men also broke the widest margin of victory in league history with a 137 victory. The women won the title by scoring the second most points in league history at 251, which was just one point from tying the record.
In 2018, the women swept the indoor and outdoor championships while the men claimed the indoor crown. Zallow was named the Horizon League's Indoor and Outdoor Athlete of the Year while Jaynee Corbett was named the indoor athlete of the year for the second straight season. At the indoor meet, the women won the crown by 82.83 points scoring a school-best 203.83 points. The men also had a school record in points at the indoor meet scoring 201 in a 38.5-point victory. At the outdoor championships, the women cruised to an impressive 84-point win.
In 2017, the Penguins won five of six Horizon League titles as the men's program claimed its first Triple Crown as a member of the conference. After winning the cross country meet in November the men won the indoor title by 31 points and the outdoor crown by 13. The women had a pair of dominating performances winning the indoor title by 43 points and the outdoor crown by 73.5 points. The women picked up their fourth straight HL outdoor title, the first time the same school has won four straight in conference history.
Zallow was named the indoor and outdoor Great Lakes Region Track Athlete of the year and the Horizon League Athlete of the year as well. Jaynee Corbett earned Female Athlete of the Year accolades for her indoor season. The men's cross country program reached its highest ranking in Great Lakes Region in school history and during the indoor season the men's program also garnered its highest ranking in the USTFCCA poll.
The men doubled their victory total in the 2016 winning both the indoor and outdoor championships. The indoor championship was won in impressive fashion as the Penguins claimed their first indoor title since 2003 by 65 points. The outdoor meet featured another thriller against Milwaukee, but YSU came out on top by a 183-181 margin. In the fall, the men's cross country team placed second by one point as Austin McLean became the second Penguin in three years to win the event.
The women had some tough luck during the indoor meet finishing second behind Oakland, but rebounded to win their third straight outdoor crown. Nina Grambling capped off her impressive YSU career winning the 100m for the fourth time and the 200m for the third time as the Penguins cruised to the title.
During the 2013-14 campaign, the women won their first-ever Horizon League Cross Country title in the fall as YSU hosted the event in Boardman. The men took second as Eric Rupe became the first Penguin to win the individual title at the event.
In March, the women had an impressive all-around performance to claim the indoor championships by outscoring Detroit by 80 points at the WATTS. The men dropped a back-and-forth battle with Milwaukee to finish second. The women had six individuals win seven events while the men had four athletes win five titles.
In May, both the men and women came through with league-title victories in the first-ever title meet hosted at Farmers National Bank Field in Youngstown. The women once again blistered the field winning by 69 points. The men built a big lead then used a late push to earn their first-ever Outdoor Horizon League crown. The Penguins knocked off 10-time defending champion Milwaukee by just 10 points, which tied for the closest margin of victory in the events history.
The women's program was one of just 11 nationwide to win the Triple Crown in 2013-14. The track and field/cross country programs to sweep the three titles in the same year were SMU, Coastal Carolina, Boston, Alabama State, North Dakota State, Villanova, Northern Arizona, Liberty, Navy, UT Arlington and YSU.
In 2014-15, the women had to travel all over the Midwest to earn their second consecutive Triple Crown. In November, YSU won its second straight Horizon League Cross Country title in Wisconsin. In February/March, the Penguins repeated as Indoor league champions. And then in May in Michigan, YSU capped off another banner year earning its third outdoor title in the past four years and second in a row.
The men had two narrow second-place finishes behind Milwaukee at the Indoor and Outdoor championships as the deciding race came down to the last event both times.
Youngstown State and Alabama State are the only two women's programs to win all six titles during that two-year stretch.
In 2012-13, the women placed second at the outdoor championships and third at the indoor meet. The men were third at both the indoor and outdoor events. Seven Penguins won indoor event titles while eight won an outdoor crown. Jarrett and Seaver each advanced to the NCAA Prelims with Seaver just missing a spot at the NCAA meet by one place. The women were third at the conference's cross country championship.
Youngstown State had a solid all-around campaign in 2011-12.
In the fall, the women's cross country squad posted a second-place finish at the conference meet. Leading the way were first-team all-league finishers Hamilton (third) and Anna Pompeo (fifth).
The Watson and Tressel Training Site, which opened in the summer of 2010 on the location of the former YSU Outdoor Track complex, hosted the 2012 Indoor Horizon League Championships. The women had a solid second-place performance while the men were third.
During the outdoor campaign, the women won their first conference title since 2008 while the men used a solid performance to place second. The Penguins used an impressive final day push to beat Milwaukee by 43 points.
The Penguins had four members appear in the NCAA East Preliminary Round - Hamilton, Allison Roth, Griffith and Grace.
YSU won nine individual events on the women's side at the 2011 Outdoor Championships while the men won five. The team's were second in both and the women lost to Milwaukee by just three points.
The women's squad in 2008 took both the indoor and outdoor conference championships. Bethany Anderson was named Field MVP, top newcomers Breanne Romeo and Danielle Curry and Alisha Anthony helped lead a second-day surge that gave the Youngstown State women's track and field team its first Horizon League Indoor Track and Field title since 2005, edging Milwaukee by 11 points.
At the Outdoor Championships, Anthony and Romeo were named the top newcomers, as the Penguins had a solid all-around effort to capture the Horizon League crown. Anthony won the triple jump with a school-record mark of 39-4 and finished second in the long jump. Romeo was one-hundredth of a second from tying the League record in the 400m, turning in a first-place time of 55.36.
In May 2006, the Penguins trailed by 26 points heading into the final day. A strong effort from the sprint group and three specialty award winners helped YSU score 163 points on the final day to win by 11. Danielle Bolt was named the meet's Outstanding Running Performer after winning the 100m dash, anchoring the winning 4x100m relay and placing fourth in the 200m. Anderson won the shot put and the hammer to earn Outstanding Field Performer honors, and Betts was named Running Newcomer of the Year after placing second in the 200m, third in the 100m and running in both winning relays.
A year earlier the Penguins sat third after day one before rallying to win their fourth straight Horizon League Track and Field title behind two individual victories from Emily Schnitkey and one from Anderson. Schnitkey won the steeplechase with a time of and the 5,000 while Anderson set two school records and won the shot put to earn Field Newcomer of the Year honors. YSU set three championship records at the meet with Aaliyah Gillespie setting the conference record the 100m hurdles, Anderson topping the standard in the shot put and Jeanna Cunningham, Yandeh Joh, Leslie Johnson and Emily Wollet setting the 4x400m record.
The Penguins turned in a dominating performance at the 2005 indoor meet, winning the title by 62 points and collecting three out of four individual awards. Cunningham was named Track Performer of the Meet and freshman Carly Youlton was named Field Performer of the Meet. Anderson was named the league's Field Newcomer of the Year. YSU won eight different events as Bolt and Youlton won two events apiece while Cunningham, Gillespie and Anderson won one event. Cunningham and Gillespie also teamed up with Joh and Wollet to win the 4x400m relay. Bolt set the conference record in the 60m and Anderson set the standard in the shot put.
At the 2004 Horizon League Outdoor Championship, the Penguins pulled together through a season full of injuries and adversity to top Milwaukee by 18 points. Bolt and Gillespie won three events apiece to pace the winning effort. Leslie Johnson was part of both winning relays to cap off a year in which she was named the Vindicator/YSU Student-Athlete of the Year.
In the 2004 indoor campaign, the women picked up the program's first conference track title since 1996. Bolt highlighted the championship meet as she was named Newcomer of the Year after winning the 60m and running in the winning 4x400m relay.
From 2004 through 2006, the women's track and field squad won five out of a possible six Horizon League Championships. Included in that stretch was a string of four straight from the 2004 indoor title to the 2005 outdoor crown.
Gorby also directed the men’s track and field team to the 2003 Horizon League Indoor Championship, which was YSU's first Horizon League crown in any sport. Eugene Harris swept the sprinting events for the second straight year at the meet while Michaelis was the league champion in the mile.
During the 2003 outdoor season Harris set conference records in the 100m and 200m to be named Outstanding Running Performer. Michaelis earned the same honor a year later as he ended his career with nine individual Horizon League titles.
Success in the Mid-Con
Before joining the Horizon League, Gorby led the Penguins to eight Mid-Continent Conference Championships in a four-year span. The men won cross country championships in 1994, 1995 and 1996, while claiming both the indoor and outdoor titles in 1997. The women's squad won the league title in cross country in 1997, the indoor track and field title in 1996 and the outdoor track and field title in 1997. Gorby also coached three athletes of the year and four newcomers of the year in the Mid-Con.
In 1997, Thomas and Andrea Cohol paced the women's cross country team to its first-ever conference crown. Thomas became YSU's first individual cross country champion and Cohol finished third as the Penguins won by an impressive 16 points over Southern Utah. In the spring of 1997, Thomas and Marcella Scaife each won two events as the Penguins won the outdoor track and field title by narrowly edging Western Illinois by 0.83 points. The 1996 women's indoor squad won YSU's first conference crown in track and field as Scaife won two events.
The 1996-97 academic year was a dominant one for the men's program as it won conference titles in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. Folk finished third at the cross country championship meet while Chris Emory and Mark Brady both finished in the top 10 to start the winning trend. Bob Bond won two events to lead the Penguins to the indoor crown, and YSU captured in the outdoor title by defeated Troy State by a lopsided score of 271.5-129. Bond, Owusu-Ansah and Jason Pope each won two events apiece.
In 1994, YSU won the Mid-Con Cross Country title behind Brady's second-place finish and a sixth-place effort from Donn Craig. Brady's runner-up placing is still the best by a male cross country runner in school history. Brady placed fifth a year later in 1995 while Craig and Folk finished in the top 10 to lead YSU to another conference crown.
As a noted distance runner himself, Gorby has competed in several marathons and competes in races throughout the year. He has a personal-best time of 2 hours and 26 minutes in the race.
He received his doctorate in educational leadership in 2003 from Youngstown State after earning a bachelor’s degree in education in 1990 and a master’s in physical education in 1994.
Gorby and his wife, Charlotte, reside in Austintown, with their daughter Jersey and their son Beau.