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Effective May 1, 2017 Mike Barbee took the helm of the men's and women's cross country teams for the 2017 season. A 14-year coaching veteran with experience at the NCAA, junior college and high school level, Barbee joins the Bobcats as the fourth head coach in program history.
"We are excited to have Mike lead our cross country program," director of recreation and athletics David Dunham said. “He brings a wealth of experience from different levels which we feel will continue to build upon the success the program has experienced. Mike's passion for the sport and his energy will allow him to take the cross country program to the next level."
Most recently Barbee has been working with the Florida State University Seminoles' men's distance program as an operations assistant since 2015. Prior to his time at FSU he was the head cross country and track and field coach at Eastern New Mexico University for two years. While leading the ENMU Greyhounds their success was seen with multiple athletes qualifying for the NCAA Championships including a two-time All-American and 15 school records.
Barbee, a Michigan native, was a member of both the cross country and track and field teams at Western Michigan University where he completed his Bachelors of Science degree in Education in 1999. His coaching career started at Corona High School in 2001 as the head boys and girls cross country and track and field coach. During Barbee's tenure at Corona his girls cross country team was unbeaten in dual meet competition for three years and his boys team won two conference titles.
He later advanced his resume while coaching at Riverside Community College for seven seasons (2003-10) as the head women's cross country and track and field coach. Within his time at RCC the cross country team achieved five top-10 team finishes at the state championships, and four times for track. In 2009 he was named the CCCAA Women's Track & field Coach of the Year.
Barbee's coaching experience also includes stints at McNeese State University and University of South Alabama. While at South Alabama as the cross country coach and distance assistant he led the 2011 women's cross country team to their best season in more than a decade. Additionally his men and women combined for four new school records.
Velarde enters his second season as an assistant coach for the men's and women's cross country teams.
He was born and raised in Madera, California and attended Madera High School, where he was a two year varsity runner. In 2006 Madera was nationally ranked, and placed 6th at their state meet and 12th nationally.
After his time at Madera, he attended Fresno City College at the same time as Coach Nunez and was the captain of the team for two consecutive seasons. After his first season he was ranked 7th in California for returning runners. In 2008 he placed 10th overall at the CCCAA meet in the Northern division. During his time at Fresno City College he earned the Bill Camp Memorial Award, given to an outstanding student athlete, an award rarely given out.
He eventually transferred to Fresno State University, where he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in History. During his time at Fresno State he was a volunteer coach with his father at Madera South High School, which has since become a dominant cross country program in California and the nation. In 2013 his father made the decision to return to Madera High School full-time, and Velarde has been coaching alongside him in the hopes of rebuilding the program and helping more students continue their education beyond high school.
Velarde's personal best for the 5k is 15:30 on a cross country course.
Sofia Rios trades in her running shoes for coaching shoes this season as she becomes the second former University of California, Merced runner to jump to the college coaching ranks at their alma mater.
Rios joins the staff as the most decorated runner in UC Merced cross country history. In her four-year career, Rios qualifed for the NAIA National Championship four times, was named to the Cal Pac Conference First Team all four years, earned Cal Pac Runner of the Year her junior year, and became the first champion in UC Merced history in 2014 when she won the Cal Pac Conference individual championship. You can read that story here.