Sept. 10, 2013
AUBURN, Ala. - Knut Hjeltnes (Kuh-newt yelt-ness), who spent the last 14 years as the throws coach at Army and is a veteran of four Olympic Games, has been named throws coach for the Auburn track and field program, announced head coach Ralph Spry Tuesday.
Competing for the Norwegian national team, Hjeltnes' Olympic experience was culminated with a fourth-place finish in the discus at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Calif., in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Canada, and the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Hjeltnes was able to garner seventh-place finishes.
“It is every coach’s dream to coach in the Southeastern Conference at a school like Auburn,” Hjeltnes said. “I’m very fortunate to join the staff at Auburn and very appreciative to Coach Spry for this opportunity. I worked with (assistant coach) Scott Richardson at Army, so I was familiar with the program. I look forward to helping Auburn continue to be one of the best track and field programs in the county.”
The Norway native also qualified for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, Russia, but unfortunately for Hjeltnes, Norway took part in the boycott of the Olympic Games that year. During his competitive career, Hjeltnes established 11 Norwegian records and captured 20 Norwegian championships.
During his tenure at West Point, throwers under his guidance won 42 Patriot League Championships, set five Academy records and dominate the top-10 lists for both the Army men's and women's Olympic throwing events at 62 distances. Hjeltnes also developed three All-American performances, including Adam Burke's back-to-back All-America campaigns in the javelin in 2003 and 2004 and Brian Gebhardt's stellar 2000 season in the weight throw.
“We’re really excited about having Knut Hjeltnes join our staff,” Spry said. “He is one of the most respected throws coaches in the business and brings a wealth of world class experience as an ex-athlete and as a coach. Knut’s technical knowledge is second to none. We’re fortunate to have this four-time Olympian in the Auburn Family. Coach Hjeltnes will continue to build upon the success we’ve had in the throws.”
Additionally, Hjeltnes has developed several other NCAA Qualifiers, including two 35 lbs. weight throwers, three hammer throwers and two discus throwers, while developing three javelin U.S. Junior National Qualifiers in Marcus Canty, Mike Nulk and Jason Smartt.
Most recently, two Black Knights earned invites to the NCAA Regional Championships as Patriot League discus champion Jessica Waggoner and conference hammer throw runner-up Nicholas Snoad finished the 2012 season among the top 48 in the East Region in their respective events. Snoad went on to compete in Jacksonville, Fla., while Waggoner opted out of the competition, but capped her season by breaking the 10-year old Academy record in the discus in just her second season at West Point.
Hjeltnes' athletes have been just as successful in the classroom as they have been on the field. Former captain and javelin thrower Kevin Kumlien was named an Academic All-American and Patriot League Scholar Athlete of the Year for the 2007-08 season, while discus and shot put athlete Caleb Wells earned the same honors after the 2005-06 season.
A 1978 graduate of Brigham Young University, Hjeltnes returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach for the Cougars from 1982-1984. While coaching at BYU, Hjeltnes earned his master's degree in Professional Leadership and Exercise Science. During his coaching career, Hjeltnes also has served as an assistant coach at University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Irvine (1984-1986) and at SUNY Albany (1997-1999).
Experienced in the world of business marketing as well, Hjeltnes was involved in sales and marketing for Nike International (1980-1982) and with Microsoft, Inc. (1989-1991).
Prior to joining Army's staff, Hjeltnes served as the Norwegian National track and field coach from 1994-97. He also worked as a personal discus coach for Olympians from Norway, Sweden and Ireland.
Hjeltnes and his wife Colleen have three children, Kristin, Erik and Daniel, and two grandchildren, Charlotte and Graham.