Marquette Wire

Track and field coach Bellford mentors potential All-American jumpers

Track+and+field+assistant+coach+Rick+Bellford+%28center%29+works+with+former+All-American+high+jumper+Wally+Ellenson.+%28Photo+by+Maggie+Bean%2C+courtesy+of+Marquette+Athletics.%29
Track and field assistant coach Rick Bellford (center) works with former All-American high jumper Wally Ellenson. (Photo by Maggie Bean, courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Track and field assistant coach Rick Bellford (center) works with former All-American high jumper Wally Ellenson. (Photo by Maggie Bean, courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Track and field assistant coach Rick Bellford (center) works with former All-American high jumper Wally Ellenson. (Photo by Maggie Bean, courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

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In the five years that Marquette assistant coach Rick Bellford has been on campus, track and field has undergone a radical culture shift that has transformed both men’s and women’s teams into BIG EAST conference powerhouses.

Bellford, who’s responsible for jumpers and multi-event athletes, has seen an astounding 18 BIG EAST individual champions in four seasons. He coached former All-American high jumper Wally Ellenson and recruited star high jumpers Daniel Armstrong on the men’s side and Monique Felix on the women’s.

Marquette has a long history of producing All-Americans, but it was mostly in the 1930s and ’40s. Before Wally Ellenson was named to that list in 2015, Marquette did not have an All-American since 2006 on the women’s side and 1986 on the men’s side.

Felix, just a junior, may be on her way to becoming the most decorated women in program history. She has claimed four individual BIG EAST crowns, including back-to-back pentathalon and heptathalon titles in the indoor and outdoor seasons and another title in the outdoor high jump title.

“Coach Bellford was a big reason why I came to Marquette,” Felix said. “I didn’t really have a lot of other coaches believing that in just four short years I could develop into the athlete that I am today.”

“The number of points (Felix) scores at the BIG EAST Championships really puts our women’s team in contention,” Bellford said. “If we didn’t have those points, it’d be very difficult to win on the women’s side.”

While Felix is one potential candidate, the other is sophomore high jumper Daniel Armstrong. Armstrong swept both the indoor and outdoor BIG EAST title in the high jump, jumping a personal best of 2.17 meters, or 7 feet, 1.5 inches in the outdoor season. Armstrong qualified for the NCAA Championships where he underperformed and came in in 42nd. Bellford believes that this could be the year that Marquette breaks through and the program can produce an All-American.

“I think (Armstrong) has a very good shot to be an All-American this year and then I think (Felix) can be too,” Bellford said. “If she can put it all together during a pentathalon or a heptathalon, she can be right there as well.”

Felix felt honored to receive praise from Bellford, a former all-American triple jumper at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“That’s an awesome thing to hear coming from a coach like Coach Bellford,” Felix said. “For an All-American to say that about someone else, it’s really inspiring and it gives me a lot of hope for potential, not only for myself but for my other teammates too.”

Meanwhile, Felix is grateful that Bellford is at her side. She mentioned Belford’s humor and expertise as a former student-athlete as her biggest assets.

“He’s really knowledgeable and is willing to work with you when things aren’t working well and change things up,” Felix said. “He’s really understanding when things come up.”

While Armstrong and Felix are grabbing the headlines, they aren’t the only ones to keep an eye on. Senior Will Wolf won his event in the triple jump over the weekend at the John Tierney Classic at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Meanwhile on the women’s side, there’s plenty to watch out for, including Cassy Goodrich in the 300-meter race, Terica Harris in the long jump, Gemma Tedeschi in the pole vault and Maya Marion in throwing events.

Coach Bellford believes that this is going to be another stellar season for the program.

“It always starts at the conference level,” Bellford said. “The goals are to win four BIG EAST Championships. We want to win two on the women’s side, indoor and outdoor, and same thing on the men’s side. We want to send as many through to the NCAAs as possible, and I feel like we have one or two who can make it though to Nationals this year.”

The two All-American hopefuls could be just the beginning of something greater at Marquette, and it may be coming sooner than anyone expected.

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