Eric Putnam, a 10-time Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year and a three-time Ohio NAIA/NCAA Division II Coach of the Year, enters his 12th season as the head coach of the men’s cross country team at Shawnee State in 2016. He is also in his 11th season as the head coach of the women’s team, while also serving as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s track & field teams. In addition to his head coaching responsibilities, Putnam also works in the athletic department as an Assistant Athletic Director.
During his tenure as head coach, the Bears have established a new standard for excellence. The Bears are five-time reigning champions on women’s side, while having won four of the last five conference championships on the men's side. This has earned him Coach of the Year four times running on the men’s side (2010-14) and three Coach of the Year honors on the women’s side (2010, 12-15).
As the men’s cross country coach…
Shawnee State’s success has not been limited to the conference level as it has qualified as a team for the NAIA National Championships in seven of his nine seasons while sending two individuals in each of the other two years. His streak of consecutive NAIA appearances spanned six seasons which were also the most successful seasons in program history.
In addition to sending an entire squad to the National Championships for six years, Putnam’s men’s team has finished in the top 10 in the country during each of the last five seasons and was 11th in the year before that. Each of the five NAIA All-Americans in men’s cross country history came during this six-year stretch.
In 2009 and 2010, Putnam coached the Bears to a program-best fourth-place finish at the national championships, before following that up with a ninth-place finish in 2011. His men’s team then placed seventh in 2012 and 2013, with the 2013 season finishing with an NAIA All-American for the third straight season. That run to All-America honors by Brad Liston was also the highest finish by a men’s runner in program history as Liston placed sixth at the NAIA Championships. In 2014, the Bears scored three wins as a program as well as two individual wins, with the 2014 season also marking the seventh straight year that the Bears have had seven NAIA Qualifiers. Shawnee State would go on to finish 17th at the 2014 NAIA Championships, the seventh straight season in which the Bears finished in the top 20 overall.
In total, Putnam has sent 58 men’s cross country runners to the NAIA Championships. He has also coached the Mid-South Conference Runner of the Year in each of his first five seasons in the conference and the MSC Freshman of the Year in three of those five seasons. Additionally, 55 runners have garnered All-Conference accolades under Putnam, 35 of which have come in the past four seasons.
The men’s side has won 24 races as a team while 18 individuals have been the top finisher against a schedule that consistently features NCAA Division I meets. There has been at least one team win and one individual win during each year of Putnam's tenure as head coach at SSU, and at least seven runners have qualified for the NAIA National Championship in eight of Putnam's 10 previous seasons as head coach.
As the women’s cross country coach …
As the women’s head coach for the past nine years, the Bears have steadily improved their conference finish during each season under Putnam. The team hit a milestone during the 2010 season when they captured the first conference championship in school history during their first season in the Mid-South Conference and have not been beaten at the conference meet since. That streak currently sits at six consecutive Mid-South Conference Championships.
The Bears also experienced another first under Putnam during the 2008 season when the squad qualified as a team for the NAIA Champioinships for the first time in school history and posted its then best-ever finish of 13th overall as Lisa Davies and Star Emmert each earned All-American accolades during that race – the only time in school history for either the men’s or women’s team that they have had two All-Americans in the same season.
From 2010-2012, the women placed in the top 25, then matched the program-high 2008 finish with another 13th-place finish at the NAIA Championships in 2013. However, 2014 proved to be the best season yet for the women's cross country program, as the Bears took home their fifth MSC title in a row, placed four runners on the MSC First-Team, and produced the MSC Freshman of the Year in Anna Havranek as well as the MSC Runner of the Year in Sarah Biehl en route to a program-best 12th place finish at the NAIA Championships. To cap the season off, Biehl was named an NAIA All-American, which marked the third time in four years that the women's cross country program produced at least one All-American.
In addition to qualifying the team at the NAIA Championships in eight of his 11 seasons, a total of 48 runners have qualified for the national championships, including at least one during each of his seasons as head coach and at least seven in each of the past five years. Six of the program’s seven All-Americans have also been coached under Putnam, with the most recent coming in 2014 when Sarah Biehl placed 23rd individually in the 2014 NAIA Championships. At the conference level, Putnam has had three runners named MSC Runner of the Year while two additional runners have been named as MSC Freshman of the Year Award recipients. In all, 43 runners have earned All-Conference accolades during the past 10 seasons, including 33 during the run of six straight MSC Championships. Running a tough schedule each year that features multiple NCAA Division I meets, the Bears have won 14 races as a team and have had the top individual finisher in 13 meets under Putnam.
As the track & field coach …
With the transition to the Mid-South Conference, Shawnee State Athletics elevated men’s and women’s track & field from a club sport to the 12th and 13th varsity sports at SSU. The track & field program continues to grow under Putnam and competed in throwing events for the first time during the 2013 season, while adding jumps in 2014.
The 2014 season saw both outdoor track teams post new team highs in points at the Mid-South Conference Championships. The men placed fourth overall with a program-best five champions at the conference meet. The women matched their best performance in program history with a sixth-place finish and crowned two MSC Championships for the first time in program history. In total, Putnam has coached nine MSC Champions on the men’s side and three more on the women’s side.
At the national meet, the men sent a program record four qualifiers to the national championships in 2014, while the women qualified two separate individuals for the first time as a varsity program. The 2014 season was also the first time the Bears qualified a relay as the men’s 4x800 ran at the national championships.
In 2015, the men and women each won three events at the MSC Tournament, with both teams taking top honors in the conference's 4*800 meter relay, the 5,000 meter run, and the 10,000 meter run. In the NAIA National Meet, the men equaled its program record by sending four runners to the national championships. Meanwhile, the women sent a program-record five individuals to the NAIA National Championships, with Sarah Biehl becoming the first student-athlete ever (male or female) to finish as an NAIA All-American in two separate events in the same year.
In total, the men have seen 21 qualifiers to the NAIA meet with two All-Americans. The women have qualified 14 runners to the NAIA Championships, with Biehl recording the pair of NAIA All-American honors for the women. Putnam’s 35 national qualifiers in five years of varsity track have come in a total of six different events.
Prior to Shawnee State …
Prior to joining Shawnee State, Putnam coached Chillicothe High School to a district championship in 2003 and a district runner-up finish in 2004. In 2003, two Chillicothe runners qualified for the state championship meet. He also served as an assistant cross country and track coach at Xavier University for two seasons (2001-03). While at Xavier, Putnam earned his Master's in Sports Administration.
A graduate of Ohio University, Putnam also enjoyed a very successful collegiate running career. From 1991-96, he ran cross country and track for the Bobcats, earning seven varsity letters. He earned All-Mid-American Conference honors seven times and was the individual MAC champion in the 1,500-meter run in 1996, running 3:48. He was co-MVP of the team in 1996 and was a three-time team captain.
Putnam established many accomplishments through his high school career at Chillicothe High School. He was a four-time state individual cross country qualifier in Division I, including a state runner-up finish in 1989. He was also a three-time state qualifier in track and field, including a fourth place finish in the 1600 meter run and fifth in the 3200 meter relay in 1991.
He has been winning road races of various distances all over Ohio for more than a decade. He was the 2005 Run Ohio Grand Prix Co-Champion in 2005 and the 2006 Huntington Half Marathon Champion with a time of 1:09:04. Putnam has also won the Shawnee State Bear run a record 11 times.
Putnam resides in Portsmouth with his wife, Krista, and their sons, Charles and Ian.