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June 3 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Former Wheeling Jesuit University standout and current Wheeling Park High School assistant coach Matt Abel has been selected as the new head men’s and women’s cross country coach and assistant track and field coach at Bethany College, announced Wednesday by director of athletics and recreation Tim Weaver.
“We’re excited to add Matt to our staff,” said Weaver. “He has the combination of commitment, passion and experience that we need to develop a legitimate cross country program. We feel with our strong academic programs, outstanding campus setting, facilities and many other variables, Matt can lead us to new heights. His enthusiasm and energy in recruiting will provide immediate results in fielding an extremely competitive team .”

After working as an assistant for more than five years, Abel is elated at the new opportunity.

“Bethany College has a tremendous tradition of outstanding runners,” said Abel. “I’m excited to be joining the staff of an outstanding academic institution at an extremely prosperous time in its rich history.”

During the past one and a half years, the College has significantly upgraded athletic facilities—including a new track and field facility and weightlifting/fitness center. 

As an assistant at Wheeling Park for more than four years, Abel helped the Patriots earn numerous team awards while working primarily with the distance and middle distance runners, as well as the relays. Team accomplishments include four OVAC Class 4A Boys’ Track Championships, three OVAC Class 4A Boys’ Cross Country titles and a pair of West Virginia Boys’ Class AAA State Cross Country Championships. He also helped Wheeling Park to two OVAC Class 4A Girls’ Cross Country Championships and two OVAC Class 4A Girls’ Track crowns.

Athletes directly under Abel’s supervision at Park won six individual state championships, 36 All-West Virginia awards, 19 individual OVAC titles and set school records in the Girls’ 800, Boys’ and Girls’ 1,600 and Boys’ and Girls’ 3,200.

Although this will be Abel’s first head coaching position, he has previously worked at the NCAA Division III level, serving as an assistant track coach at Ohio Wesleyan University for one season in 2005. His time there was marked by one Bishop runner provisionally qualifying for NCAA Championships in the Women’s 5,000, two North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) champions (Men’s and Women’s 3,000 Steeplechase) and five All-NCAC honorees.

In addition to the coaching accomplishments, Abel also posted a highly decorated running career at Wheeling Jesuit, who he helped win three WVIAC Cross Country and Track & Field Championships. On the trails, he was a two-time captain and four-time All-WVIAC performer for the Cardinals. Abel would compete at the NCAA Division II East Region meet three times and in 2003, qualified for the NCAA National Championship Meet.

In track, he served as captain in 2004, set Wheeling Jesuit records in the 1,500 and Distance Medley Relay and earned All-WVIAC accolades in 2003 in the 1,500.

Abel was just as accomplished in the classroom as he was on the trails or track. He earned Academic All-American laurels three times during his tenure at Wheeling Jesuit, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry.

When he’s trying to find runners to join the Bethany program, Abel is looking for ones who can fit both ends of the term student-athlete.

“We want to find student-athletes who value education first,” said Abel. “They should be able to find the right balance between running, academics and being part of a competitive program.”

Last season, the Bison women runners were fifth at PAC Championships and will return Second Team All-PAC honoree Maggie McCort (Fort Ashby, W.Va./Frankfort), who placed 13th overall at the conference meet. The women’s team also got the job done in the classroom, posting a 3.376 team GPA through the fall semester to receive United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic Team honors. The men finished at the bottom of the PAC standings.
“The first priority is obviously recruiting—increasing depth and quality,” said Abel. “Once we do that, I want to win and I think we can reach a conference championship level in two or three years. All of the variables are in place for a highly successful program.”