Paul Thornton
Paul  Thornton

Northfield, Minn.

Associate Head Coach

Alma Mater:
St. Olaf


Gophers Head South For NCAA West Preliminary Meet

23 student-athletes to compete


Track Ready for Big Ten Championships

Looking for first title since 2010


DMR Breaks School Record at Drake Relays

Second straight DMR title for Minnesota at Drake


4x800 Relay Wins Second Consecutive Title at Drake Relays

Tough conditions on the track not a factor for Gophers' 4x800


Gophers Ready for 103rd Drake Relays

Hassan Mead and Pieter Gagnon to run the 10k at the Payton Jordan at Stanford


2015 Golden Bear Twilight

2015 Golden Bear Twilight

Now entering his ninth overall season with the Gophers coaching staff, Paul Thornton begins his first season as associate head coach in 2016-17. 

“Paul is an invaluable member to our coaching staff and our program, and he is a big part of the success we have had here,” Minnesota director of men's track & field and cross country Steve Plasencia said. “He’s a tireless worker who contributes to our team in every way possible. Coaching, recruiting, logistical planning – Paul is the whole package.”

Thornton continues to oversee the Maroon & Gold’s sprinters, hurdlers, jumpers and multi-event athletes. He has coached his student-athletes to a total of 53 All-America honors and 15 individual Big Ten titles including 2015 NCAA heptathlon champion, two-time First Team All-American and school heptathlon record holder Luca Wieland. He was also instrumental in the development and success of Harun Abda – the most decorated All-American in program history with 13 accolades as well as six Big Ten titles and six school records.

Thornton helped Minnesota to three-straight Big Ten indoor titles (2009-11) and back-to-back Big Ten outdoor titles (2009-10).

“Every day, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity that Steve gave me to be part of this amazing staff and program,” Thornton said. “The University of Minnesota has become a home to our family, and we are incredibly thankful to be surrounded by some of the most dedicated student-athletes and staff members in the country.”

During his second season at Minnesota, Thornton was honored by his peers earning Midwest Region Men's Assistant Coach of the Year acclaim by the U.S. Track & Field/Cross Country Coaches Association for the indoor season.

Thornton, a Northfield, Minn., native, came to Minnesota after five years as the head men's and women's head track coach at Washington University in St. Louis, a powerful NCAA Division III program. The Bears' women's team placed third at the 2008 NCAA Division III Indoor Championships andThornton was recognized as the U.S. Track & Field/Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Midwest Region Coach of the Year.

During Thornton's tenure, Washington won 14 University Athletic Association (UAA) team titles. The women's team captured UAA titles in nine of the 10 championships (indoor and outdoor) contested during his reign with the Bears. The Bears swept the men's and women's UAA team titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Thornton spent three seasons as the head men's and women's track & field coach at St. Mary's (Minn.) before moving to Washington. He started his coaching career at Illinois State, first as a graduate assistant, then as an assistant coach and finally with four seasons as ISU's associate head coach (1996-2000).

Thornton was a three-time Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAC) honoree during his collegiate track career at St. Olaf. He helped the Oles' 4x400-meter relay to an NCAA Championships appearance in 1993 and was voted the team's most valuable runner. Thornton earned four varsity letters in both cross country and track at St. Olaf, while being coached by his father Bill. He earned a bachelor's degree in sports science in 1993.

Thornton, who earned a master's degree in exercise physiology and biomechanics from Illinois State in 1995, and his wife Julie have two children, Marisa and Zach.


Dual Tickets on Sale Wednesday

Dual Tickets on Sale Wednesday

12/12/2017 - M. Track & Field

The Gophers have won three-straight Border Battle dual titles with Wisconsin since starting the head-to-head competition back up in 2015.

'U' Prospect Khalid Hussein Earns All-America Nod

'U' Prospect Khalid Hussein Earns All-America Nod

12/2/2017 - M. Track & Field

A native of Plymouth, Minn., Hussein signed his National Letter of Intent with the Gophers last month after winning the 2017 MSHSL Class AA Cross Country Championship.

Gophers Close Out SDSU Holiday Open

Gophers Close Out SDSU Holiday Open

12/2/2017 - M. Track & Field

The Maroon & Gold posted three of the top-four heptathlon finishes over the two-day meet with newcomer Teddy Frid leading the Gophers with a runner-up finish at 4,438 points.

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