In continued celebration and acknowledgment of the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), the nation’s oldest historically Black athletic conference, is recognizing five women that have helped shape their institutions, the CIAA, and women’s athletics. These women are just five of a total of 50 CIAA Title IX Trailblazers, who will be recognized during the
2023 CIAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament, which will be held from February 21-25 at the CFG Bank Arena in Baltimore, MD.
2023 CIAA Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track & Field Championship less than a week away, the CIAA is highlighting five trailblazers that have shaped the outlook of the sport today. LaVerne Sweat is a legendary track & field coach that cemented her legacy inside the CIAA years ago, while Inez Turner continues to build upon hers, first at Winston-Salem State and now at Fayetteville State. Dr. Kristine Kelly and Etienne Thomas are two administrators that have presided over track & field conference championships while Melody Webb and Norfolk State will be the first HBCU to host an NCAA Division I National Championship when the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track & Field Championship come to Norfolk State and Virginia Beach in 2023.
Inez Turner | Fayetteville State & Winston-Salem State Coach Inez Turner is a living legend in cross country and track & field. Turner was hired by Fayetteville State in 2017 to revive the university’s women’s track & field program and to be the school’s head cross country coach. In the six seasons since, Turner has eight CIAA Coach of the Year honors and she has delivered five women’s cross country conference championships, three women’s track & field conference championships, and one men’s cross country championship. In 2022, the Broncos women’s cross country program earned its fifth consecutive conference title while the men’s program nabbed its first. In 2022, Turner was named the Woman’s Atlantic Region Coach of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). She was the USTFCCCA DII Indoor Atlantic Region Coach of the Year Award in 2020. From 2010 to 2017, Turner helmed the cross country and track & field programs at Winston-Salem State. While with the Rams, Turner was an eight-time CIAA Coach of the Year recipient and won nine conference titles. As a student-athlete at Barton Community College and Texas State, Turner’s long list of accolades includes 16 National Junior College All-America honors, back-to-back NCAA National Championships in the 800m run, 13 title races at the Penn Relays, two Southland Conference Athlete of the Year awards, as well as several school records and conference championships. Turner is also an Olympian runner, competing for Jamaica in the 1996 Olympic Games.
Dr. Kristine Kelly | Johnson C. Smith & St. Augustine’s Administrator & Student-Athlete From 2009 to 2016, Dr. Kelly was an associate athletic director and the Senior Woman Administrator at St. Augustine’s University. Her duties included overseeing the day-to-day operations of the 14-sport program and serving as deputy Title IX coordinator for athletics. Dr. Kelly was twice (2011 & 2013) named the CIAA Senior Woman Administrator of the Year. While at St. Augustine’s, Kelly was part of an administration that presided over five consecutive men’s outdoor track & field national championships. Before arriving at St. Augustine’s, Dr. Kelly was the Sports Information Director at Johnson C. Smith University from 2002 to 2009. She was the second female to be awarded the CIAA John Holley Sports Information Director of the Year (2005). Dr. Kelly has completed multiple leadership development institutes, including the NCAA Leadership Institute for Ethnic Minority Women (2007). She completed the Vanderbilt Leadership Academy in 2021 and was selected to participate in the Lead1 Diversity Fellowship Program. Dr. Kelly is a very active committee member within the NCAA, with service on the NCAA Woman of the Year Committee and the NCAA Division II Track and Field Committee. She served as a member of the CIAA Management Council and as a committee member for numerous CIAA championships. A 2000 graduate of Johnson C. Smith, Dr. Kelly played softball, earning all-rookie honors from the conference as a freshman and captain status as a senior. In addition to serving as a sports information intern all four years, she was also a student trainer for the football team. Currently, Dr. Kelly serves as the Deputy Athletic Director for Internal Affairs and Senior Woman Administrator at Vanderbilt University.
LaVerne Sweat | Hampton & Norfolk Coach & Student-Athlete LaVerne Sweat served at Norfolk State University for nearly 20 years, including as the head cross country and women’s track & field coach from 1988 to 2005, before retiring as the university’s Senior Woman Administrator in 2006.As the Spartans’ coach, her teams won a total of 18 CIAA championships between cross country and track & field in an eight-year span from 1988-96. The Spartans earned four runner-up finishes at the NCAA Division II Track & Field Championships in her tenure. Under Sweat’s guidance, the Spartans won two more conference titles after moving up to NCAA’s Division I, capturing the 2000 MEAC indoor championship and 2001 outdoor championship. In addition, Norfolk State captured five runner-up trophies in the MEAC. Among her accomplishments in track and field was being selected as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic team for the 2000 Sydney Games. Additionally, Sweat was selected as head coach of the U.S. team at the 1981 World University Games in Bucharest, Romania, and was head coach of the 1993 Junior Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada. Sweat was also the first female president of the CIAA in the 1980s. From 1978 to 1988, Sweat was the head cross country and track & field coach at Hampton University. In total, Sweat earned the CIAA Track and Field Coach of the Year nine times. She was the NAIA National Coach of the Year in 1981 while at Hampton and was voted NCAA Division II Coach of the Decade in 1991. She is a member of several Hall of Fames, such as the CIAA Hall of Fame (2005), the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame (2011), the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame (2013), and the Norfolk State Hall of Fame (2019). Sweat received her bachelor’s degree from Virginia State University and her master’s from Hampton University.
Etienne Thomas | Winston-Salem State & North Carolina Central Administrator In 2019, Etienne Thomas was named the Director of Athletics at Winston-Salem State. Under her leadership, the Rams have won two conference championships, including the most recent outdoor women’s track & field championship in 2022. Before arriving at Winston-Salem State, Thomas’ career highlights included serving as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference representative on the NCAA Division I Council, assisting North Carolina Central with its transition from a Division II independent program to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and its transition to Learfield/LRG licensing. As the Director of Athletics at Kentucky State, Thomas realigned cheerleading under athletics and hired a permanent coach, established a men’s volleyball program, and created a director of strength and conditioning position. A 1996 graduate of North Carolina Central, Thomas returned to work at her alma mater from 2008 to 2017, serving in different capacities, such as Senior Associate Director of Athletics and Senior Woman Administrator for the Eagles. Thomas is a member of Minority Opportunities Athletics Association, Women Leaders in College Sports, National Association of Collegiate Directors of America, and the National Association of Athletics Compliance. In addition to working at North Carolina Central, Thomas has also worked at Howard University, Saint Paul’s College, Kentucky State University, the University of Kansas, and San Jose State University.
Melody Webb | Norfolk State, CIAA, Bowie State, & Elizabeth City State Administrator & Coach Currently, Melody Webb is the Athletic Director at Norfolk State University. When she was named to the position in July 2020, she became the first woman to hold the title at the university. At the helm of the Spartans, the men’s basketball team has won consecutive conference championships en route to consecutive NCAA Division I Tournament appearances and in 2021, the Norfolk State baseball team won its first-ever MEAC title. The Trojans will also be the first HBCU to host an NCAA Division I National Championship when the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track & Field Championship come to Norfolk State and Virginia Beach in 2023. The Virginia Beach Sports Center will host the 2023 and 2026 NCAA Division II Indoor Championships, the 2024 Division III Indoor Championships, and the 2025 Division I Indoor Championships with Norfolk State serving as the host institution. Webb arrived at Norfolk State in 2014, first serving as an associate athletic director. Prior to Norfolk State, Webb was the Associate Commissioner for Business Operations at the CIAA. From 2004-2006, Webb served as the Associate Athletic Director and Senior Women’s Administrator for Elizabeth City State University. Webb earned her master’s from Bowie State University, where she also was the head volleyball coach for the Bulldogs.
On February 12-13, the CIAA will be at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, NC to crown a conference champion in men’s and women’s indoor track & field.
Additionally, as part of the continued efforts to champion and highlight the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, the CIAA has introduced a dedicated
Title IX Page on its website, featuring archives of the CIAA Woman of the Years, various other relevant news releases, and video podcast episodes highlighting some amazing women inside and outside the conference.
Title IX imagery will be featured heavily during the CIAA Tournament. In December, the CIAA inducted an
all-women’s Hall of Fame class for 2023 in honor of Title IX. Tickets are currently on sale for the CIAA Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which is scheduled for Friday, February 24 at 9 a.m.