UA Little Rock hires new director and head coach of Trojans’ Track and Field/Cross Country

Jonathan (J.P.) Behnke

Little Rock Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Chasse Conque has announced the hiring of Jonathan (J.P.) Behnke as the Trojans’ director and head coach of the Track and Field/Cross Country program. 

An All-American and national champion as a competitor and a 13-year coaching veteran with multiple conference titles under his belt, Behnke brings a wealth of experience and championship credentials to Little Rock.

“Coach Behnke brings a strong track record of success and student-athlete development to our track and field and cross country programs,” Conque said. “J.P. has seen firsthand what it takes to build a championship-caliber program. We are excited to have him lead our young men and women and we look forward to seeing our program grow under his leadership.”

“I am extremely humbled and honored to be named the next director of Track and Field/Cross Country for the Little Rock Trojans,” Behnke said. “I would like to thank Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Chasse Conque and his staff for welcoming me to the Little Rock family. I see a very promising future for Trojan Athletics and I am excited to have the opportunity to lead this program to the next level.”

Behnke joins the Trojan staff after serving as a member of the Oakland University track and field staff since 2006 in a variety of roles. Most recently, he has served as the Grizzlies’ interim head coach since March of 2018, guiding Oakland’s men’s program to their first-ever conference championship at the 2018 Horizon League Outdoor Championships.

During his 12 seasons in Oakland, Behnke coached 37 conference champions in 13 different events and played a key role in helping lead the Grizzlies to five Horizon League Cross Country Championships from 2015-17, including three-straight for the women from 2015-17.

Behnke has been a mentor to a number of Oakland student-athletes, including the Grizzlies’ first All-American in distance runner Jason Bigelow in 2010. He guided Oakland’s middle distance group to eight consecutive 800-meter championships from the 2014 indoor season through the 2017 outdoor season.

A number of his athletes earned All-Horizon League honors, including Aaron Davis being named the Horizon League Outdoor Male Athlete of the Year after winning both the 100 and 200 meter runs. Behnke mentored Nick Girodat to the Horizon League record in the indoor 60 meter dash and worked extensively with Zach Stadnika, who registered a Horizon League record 39 points and captured first place in the decathlon in the 2018 outdoor championships.

Prior to his time in Oakland, spent one season as an assistant coach for both track and field and cross country at Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan, from 2005-06. There he worked as the Monarchs’ recruiting coordinator and worked with Joe Dugall, the 2006 NJCAA Indoor High Jump national champion.

Benhke is a U.S.A. Track and Field Level II certified coach, earning the distinction for jumps in 2008 and for sprints, hurdles and relays in 2010.

On the track, Behnke was a three-year standout at Lake Superior State in Marie, Michigan, setting school records in the 800 meter run in both indoor and outdoor seasons and was a two-time All-GLIAC honoree in the event.

Behnke’s first two seasons of competition were at Lansing Community College where he was a member of the Stars’ 1998 NJCAA national championship cross country team. He was the NJCAA Super Regional champion in the 800-meters in 1999, being named an All-American in the 800 meter run and as a member of the 4×800 meter relay team.

The Rochester Hills, Michigan, native earned his degree in recreation management from Lake Superior State in 2002, then attained his master’s degree in health science from St. Francis University.

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