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Track & Field: Taking directorship a ‘full circle’ opportunity for Joseph

The Lantern
Rosalind Joseph, the next director of cross country and track and field, speaks with media June 15. Credit: Jacob Benge | Sports Editor

Rosalind Joseph created a decorated, record-breaking career both as a long jumper and assistant coach in the Ohio State track and field program.

She performed as a Buckeye student-athlete from 2002-05, earning outdoor All-American honors twice in the triple jump and setting program records in outdoor long jump and indoor triple jump. Joseph started her coaching career at Auburn from 2006-08, then returned to Ohio State as an assistant.

From 2008-13, Joseph held an assistant role then became the Buckeyes’ associate head coach from 2013-18. She departed to become the director of track and field and cross country at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 2018, spending the last four years there until her path led her back home to Ohio State.

“It was tough to leave as an assistant. A lot of the conversations even with (athletic director) Mr. Gene Smith was, ‘You have to get some leadership experience. You have to get some head coach experience,’” Joseph said. “I never knew that this would come full circle, but I took that as an indication that that’s something that I really needed to garner to be able to come back here.”

Joseph was named the next director of Ohio State’s track and field and cross country programs June 15 , taking her college coach’s position after Karen Dennis announced her retirement concluding two decades at Ohio State and 45 in collegiate coaching.

The two formed a bond while Joseph was a student-athlete at Ohio State, continuing it through the beginnings of her own coaching career. Joseph said following in Dennis’ footsteps will be challenging, but she’s poised to continue the success seen in the program.

“I think initially it’s a scary thought because those are huge shoes to fill,” Joseph said. “But, you know, after a lot of thought, it would be for anyone in the country. I’m very confident that anybody that walked in would have to fill those shoes, and so I like to say I know the designer at least.”

Dennis only coached the women’s track and field team when Joseph competed at Ohio State and didn’t become director of both the men’s and women’s programs until 2014. Joseph said she watched from afar how Dennis navigated coaching both men and women in addition to holding responsibility as director of cross country, because something like that isn’t common.

“To really watch her do it, be under her tutelage to see how it’s been done and been done well, it’s almost kind of negated the notion that women can’t coach men, and more so in doing it has given me confidence to do it,” Joseph said.

Since retiring this summer, Dennis said she’s confident in the direction of Ohio State’s track and field and cross country teams. She leaves behind a prestigious legacy and successful program, and she said “the cupboard’s not bare” in the potential for even more achievements.

“I think the program is healthy,” Dennis said. “There’s somewhat of a legacy that they can build on. I think that that’s what each and every one of us as coaches that, here at The Ohio State University, has done. You take the program, and you elevate the program, and I don’t expect that to change.”

While with the Salukis, Joseph guided the program to four second-place finishes at the Missouri Valley Conference indoor and outdoor championships. She also coached the first Southern Illinois female and male teams to receive All-America recognition since 1986 and 1992, respectively.

Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium completed construction in the summer of 2001, just before Joseph made her way to Ohio State. Since then, the athletic department added more resources, such as nutrition and conditioning, to maintain healthy and successful competition. Joseph said it’s “obvious” Ohio State invests in its student-athletes.

While Ohio State’s track and field program saw overhaul over the last two decades, college athletics overall is experiencing sweeping change, such as in conference realignment and in the name, image and likeness landscape.

Joseph said it’s an exciting time for student-athletes, and she wants to make sure Ohio State is equipped to adjust to changes made to the college athletics environment.

“I’ve called every division, every different level, and when we’re asking what are people doing, there’s a lot of, ‘I don’t know.’ Everyone’s trying to keep up and also not get too far ahead of some things,” Joseph said. “The brand of Ohio State is one that’s recognizable, and so I’m excited to be able to partner that with the student athletes and their experience here, but I think the how-to is something that is still to be determined.”

Joseph has already started making changes internally at Ohio State, as the Buckeyes elevated assistant coach Sara Mason Vergote to head coach of the cross country program July 7 .

Joseph said she plans to connect her passion for athletics and lean on her past experience as a Buckeye as she begins year one at the helm of the program.

“I was always going to watch it as a fan because I came through here, and it’s given me so much, so now just to be back and be able to be a part of continuing the tradition and molding more Buckeye student athletes, I mean, it’s incredible.”

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