Martin Smith, Andrea Grove-McDonough ‘feel right’ with move to Iowa State


Photo: Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Martin Smith is beginning his first year as Iowa State’s director of men’s and women’s track and cross-country. Smith previously coached at Oklahoma and was hired when Corey Ihmels left in June 2013 for Boise State. 

Ryan Young

When the men’s and women’s cross-country teams hit the course this fall, they will be doing so under new leadership.

This season marks the first at Iowa State for Martin Smith, now the director of track and field and cross-country. It is also the first season at Iowa State for Andrea Grove-McDonough, who is the new head coach of the women’s cross-country team.

The changes come after previous coach Corey Ihmels left in June to coach track and field and cross-country at Boise State.

“It just kind of felt right,” Smith said of his move to Iowa State. “It seemed like the right thing for me to do at this point in my career, so I just did it.”

Smith was previously the head coach for track and field and cross-country at Oklahoma. He joined the Sooners’ staff in 2005 and was named Big 12 Coach of the Year twice.

“I think it speaks volumes to where Iowa State is as an athletics program that we could attract a five-time national championship coach. We don’t hire any coaches like that around here — we haven’t historically,” said ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard. “The fact that we were able to hire someone with his credentials was a big coup for us, but I think it speaks volumes about where Iowa State is both as an institution and also where our track programs are.”

When Pollard learned of Ihmels’ departure, he wasted no time looking for a new coach. Within about 30 minutes, Pollard had convinced Smith to meet with him about the job.

“I interviewed for the job on a Friday, and I accepted the job the next day. I have yet to even go back to Oklahoma,” Smith said. “It was a very different, very fast process, but it was a natural fit for me.”

Once Smith had settled into his new position, he turned to the women’s program and hired Grove-McDonough as its head coach.

Grove-McDonough came to Ames from the University of Connecticut, where she was the head coach for five seasons. By the time she left, she had transformed UConn — a team that was once in the bottom half of the Big East Conference — into a nationally ranked and respected program.

“I had been well aware of her work for a while now and because of her work at UConn, her profile has been sort of amplified,” Smith said. “She basically made something out of almost nothing. That shows a lot of skill, and it was a strong indicator that she was a very special coach.”

Grove-McDonough took several factors into account after applying for the job, but knew very quickly after visiting that Iowa State was a good fit for her.

“I wasn’t looking to leave UConn by any means,” Grove-McDonough said. “But I came to visit with my husband, and within 24 hours, we had fallen in love with the town. It’s such a great community and a great place for us to raise a family and put down roots. That’s what really brought us here.”

Both the men and women’s teams kick off their seasons on Friday at the Bulldog 4K Classic in Des Moines. While this meet isn’t a top meet for either team, it still brings a lot of excitement.

“It’s kind of my first chance to really represent Iowa State for the first time,” Grove-McDonough said. “I get to kind of shed the image of UConn. It’s more symbolic to me than anything, and that’s pretty cool.”