Through nearly 40 years coaching at BYU, Sherald James helped build a powerhouse cross country and track program that produced All-Americans, national champions and Olympians.
Originally from Spanish Fork, Utah, James opted to stay close to home for college, studying agronomy at BYU and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1956. He remained in Provo and earned a master’s degree in physical education in 1962 and a doctorate in 1964. After his time as a student and prior to teaching and coaching at BYU, James taught and coached for two years at a high school in Dayton, Idaho, where he was also a principal and district superintendent.
While completing his undergraduate degree at BYU, James enjoyed a successful career as a track and field student-athlete. He set the BYU and Skyline Conference records in the two mile and placed second in the same event at the NCAA Championships his senior year.
James began coaching cross country and track at BYU in 1961 and continued for the next 37 years. His BYU teams won 59 conference championships in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. Six times, his BYU cross country teams achieved the highest grade point average in the NCAA, and 10 of his athletes received Academic All-America honors. Distance runners that James coached received 73 All-America honors. That elite group includes Henry Marsh, who was inducted into the USA Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.
Current BYU track & field and cross country head coach Ed Eyestone also ran for James and went on to win the 1984 NCAA Cross Country National Championship, as well as to compete in the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games. Marsh and another of James’ athletes, Doug Padilla, also participated in the 1988 Olympics. At the 1984 U.S. Olympic Trials, three of James’ former runners swept the distance races. He coached four World Record holders, and his athletes set nine American records.
James helped host the NCAA Track and Field Championships four times. He also wrote the book Modern Techniques of Track and Field. In 1993, James was named the NCAA National Coach of the Year. After retiring from BYU in 1998, he was honored in 2000 by USA Track and Field for his years of dedicated service in the State of Utah.
During his 37-year BYU coaching career, James also taught in the classroom, including 12 different health science lecture courses and five different physical education classes. In his 41 years at BYU, he taught more than 11,000 students and coached over 3,800 athletes.
He and his wife, Janice, live in Spanish Fork, Utah. They have four children, seven grandchildren, and 14 great grandchildren.