Now in his 17th year leading the Mavericks, UT Arlington Head Track and Field and Cross Country Coach John Sauerhage is firmly entrenched as one of the most successful coaches in Southland Conference history.
Since taking over the program's reins in 1996, Sauerhage has led the Mavericks to 19 team conference championships and has won an unprecedented 19 SLC Coach of the Year honors between the indoor, outdoor and cross country seasons. He also has coached 24 All-Americans, and in 2011 guided his men's team to a national ranking of 24th heading into to the NCAA Championships, the highest in school history.
The 2011 season was indeed a banner one. Sophomore Romain Martin earned First-Team All-America accolades during the indoor season after finishing third in the heptathlon. It was the highest national finish by a Maverick since 1998.
In the outdoor season, nine athletes qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships, and seven of them - Martin, Cordero Gray, Clayton Vaughn, Isiah Clements, Jeff Rodriguez, Juan Lewis and Andrew Pettis - earned Second-Team All-America honors.
In addition, Martin (men's indoor), Gray (men's outdoor) and Pamela Vinson (women's indoor) earned Southland Conference Track and Field Athlete of the Year awards. Martin (men's indoor), Lindsey Putman (women's indoor and outdoor) and Clayton Vaughn (men's outdoor) also took home league Newcomer of the Year Awards.
During the 2010 cross country season, Sauerhage helped freshman Emily Koenig to an individual Southland Conference championship as well as Athlete of the Year honors.
Finding an empty spot on Sauerhage's mantle today is no easy task, but he hopes it becomes imperative in this, UT Arlington's final year in the Southland Conference.
In 2007, Sauerhage earned his biggest accolade when the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) named him the Division I Outdoor Track and Field Men's South Central District Coach of the Year. He won the award after guiding the men's team to its first SLC outdoor team title in more than a decade with a one-point win over UTSA.
Sauerhage, a former UTA standout, returned to his alma mater in 1989 as an assistant coach, a role in which he filled for seven years prior to being named the head coach in Fall 1996.
As head coach, Sauerhage found success immediately, winning league championships in women's indoor, men's indoor and men's outdoor track in his first season and taking home Coach of the Year honors in each sport. For an encore, he led the Mavs to conference titles in men's indoor and outdoor and women's indoor track and cross country the following year.
In year three, Sauerhage accomplished something that had never been accomplished in UTA history when he led the UTA women to the triple crown, winning the cross country, indoor and outdoor conference championships. Under Sauerhage's tutelage, the Maverick women accomplished the feat a second time in 2001.
In all, the women's indoor team claimed SLC titles in each of his first six seasons, and he was named SLC Women's Indoor Track Coach of the Year each time in that stretch. From 1998-2001, he accumulated more 10 conference titles -- four in women's outdoor, four in men's indoor and two in men's outdoor.
Sauerhage has coached the men's cross country team to one conference championship and the women's cross country team to three conference titles, including back-to-back titles in 2001-02. The Southland Conference has named him Cross Country Coach of the Year three times -- once for men and twice for women's teams.
Since 1989, Sauerhage has coached 10 athletes to individual conference championships in cross country. UTA athletes have also won 73 SLC track titles in events ranging from the 800m to the 10000m, including nine in 1994.
UTA athletes have also performed on the highest levels of international competition. Former athletes Jared Connaughton (for Canada in 2008), Takeshi Fujiwara (for El Salvador in 2004) and Elston Cawley (for Jamaica in 1996) competed in the Olympics. Sauerhage has also coached five athletes who have earned trips to the IAAF World Championships.
Sauerhage's program has succeeded off the track as well. In 2010, the USTFCCCA honored the women's track programs as one of the top Division I academic units. Two athletes, Megan Turner and Brittany Culbertson, were recognized for their individual academic work.
Sauerhage began his collegiate athletic career at LSU, where he placed sixth in the Southeastern Conference in the 1000-yard and indoor mile distances. He also ran a personal-best time of 3:45.36 in the 1500 meters.
In 1982, he transferred to UT Arlington. As a member of the UTA track and field team, Sauerhage won the SLC title in the mile and was a member of the school record-holding 6000-meter relay team. He ranks second in UTA history in the 1500 meters in both indoor and outdoor with times of 3:51.50 and 3:49.35, respectively.
As a prep, Sauerhage was a six-time state qualifier for Arlington High School, won the Class 5A mile in 1979 and ran a personal-best 4:10.6 in the mile.
In addition to his collegiate experience, Sauerhage has also coached on the international level having served as the head coach of the El Salvadorian national team at the 2009 World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia.
Sauerhage graduated from UT Arlington in 1986 with a bachelor's degree in physical education. He received a master's degree in education from Louisiana-Monroe in 1988 while serving as a graduate assistant coach.
An avid fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and first baseman Albert Pujols, Sauerhage and his wife, Lisa, reside in Arlington.