COLUMBIA – Joe Lynn didn't expect to become a cross country coach.
Following his victory in the 2005 Louisville Marathon, Lynn overheard a track and field coach at a small Kentucky high school talking about his school's open cross country position. Having just won the marathon, Lynn was mentioned as a possible candidate for the job.
After talking to the coach, Lynn was offered the job on the spot and accepted it soon after. If not for that chance encounter, Lynn isn't sure where he would be.
"I guess you could say I just got lucky," Lynn said.
Lynn, who was the Missouri men's cross country team's first-year coach last season, was named coach of the women's team Monday. He will begin coaching both teams this fall.
Former coach Rebecca Wilmes presided over both the men's and women's teams during the 2010 season before Lynn was named men's coach in 2011.
"It's really exciting to be able to bring both teams back together," Lynn said.
The athletic department named Lynn women's coach after Wilmes resigned the women's post earlier this year to spend more time with her family.
"He is one of the finest young distance coaches in the country," head track and field coach Brett Halter said in a press release. "I know Joe will work hard to continue to grow the program and build on the legacy left behind by Coach Wilmes."
Lynn began his college coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Louisville before becoming a volunteer intern for the Grand Valley State University men's and women's cross country teams. Over the course of five years, Lynn gradually gained more and more responsibility at GVSU until he was named the associate head coach in his final season at the school.
"Not a lot of people would have brought me on and let me be involved in one of the top college programs in the country," Lynn said. "I'm very grateful for that."
As an assistant at GVSU, Lynn helped lead the Lakers to becoming a Division II program powerhouse. During the 2010-11 season, the Lakers women became the first NCAA program, regardless of division, to win the cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field national championships in the same season.
Lynn says there isn't much of a difference between Division I and Division II except for the higher expectations.
"It's not the label of the division that matters," Lynn said. "What you do with that label at the end of the day doesn't mean much if you don't use it."
Lynn inherits a Tigers squad that will enter its first season in the Southeastern Conference. Lynn believes there are a few changes that need to be made in order to compete.
"We have to continue to get stronger, improve our training and stay healthy throughout the year," Lynn said.
Lynn says he was able to observe the women's team a lot last year while he was coaching the men. He's also meeting with the members of the team individually over the next few weeks in order to learn more about them.
"You've just go to be able to adapt to each individual," Lynn said. "We have to keep the team all on the same page."