Thad Palmer, a 2007 graduate of Presbyterian College, began his tenth season in charge of the Presbyterian College men’s and women’s cross country teams in 2016. He also began his tenth year as an assistant in the Sports Information Department.
Palmer became the fifth coach in school history in July of 2007 and immediately began transitioning the team from Division II and the South Atlantic Conference to Division I and the Big South Conference.
In 2015, Palmer had freshmen break six school records. Preston Meade set records for the men’s 6k (20:13), 8k (26:24) and 10k (34:21). Ripley Fricano set the women’s 4k (16:25) record while Sally Hart lowered the 5k (19:26) and 6k (24:01) records. Then in 2016, Meade broke the men’s 5k record (17:07) while newcomer Emily Swanigan improved upon the women’s 5k (19:08) and 6k (23:30) records.
Palmer planned and hosted the 2015 Big South Conference Championship where he saw both of his teams have program best finishes. The men's team finished eighth, just 12 points shy of sixth, while the women finished ninth. Two weeks later, at the Southeast Regional Championship, the women also finished a program-best 32nd.
In 2016, the women’s team would improve to a program-best seventh place at the Big South Championship while the men finished ninth. Meade ran 27:09 and became the first runner in program history to be in the top-25 of a championship race.
Both teams have seen their GPA’s rank among the highest in the Conference, state and nation under Palmer’s leadership. Most notably, the men’s GPA (3.71) was ranked third in the nation by the USTFCCCA in 2014 while the women’s (3.58) ranked 43rd.
In October of 2008, Nicholas Baer became the first runner in program history to earn Big South Runner of the Week honors after his performance at the Furman Invitational. Swanigan would become the second runner to earn the honor in September of 2016 after she broke the school’s 6k record at the Furman Invitational.
The men's team won the 2013 Francis Marion Invitational by one point, placing six runners in the top-15. It was the first win for the men's program under Palmer's leadership. The women's team finished runners-up at the 2013 Francis Marion Invitational, their highest finish in several seasons.
With PC not offering varsity track, Palmer has also taken the Blue Hose to a few track meets during his tenure as coach. In the spring of 2007, PC first traveled to the USC Indoor Open as well as the Asics/Winthrop Outdoor Invitational. Both teams met with great success, most notably at Winthrop where Kristi Tempel finished second in the 800 meters (2:33). In 2011, the team traveled to the Terrier Relays and competed in the DMR. Both teams beat their seed times, with the women finishing an impressive fourth out of seven teams. In 2016, the Blue Hose returned to Winthrop where Meade ran a program-best 1500m of 4:04.43. Fricano and Hart ran 1500m times of 5:23.36 and 5:25.43 respectively.
Palmer joined the program during its seventh season as a varsity sport in 2003 when he was signed from nearby Union High School. Over the next four years, he accumulated several top-10 finishes and set a personal best 8k time of 27:12. Also during that time, Palmer ran beside classmate and program-great Matthew Elliott. In 2011, Elliott became the first South Carolina native to run a sub-four minute mile.
Palmer graduated cum laude from Presbyterian College with a bachelors of Science degree in mathematics and minor in accounting in 2007. He is a member of the USATF and is a Level 1 certified coach. He currently resides in Clinton, S.C.